I looked at my two daughters sitting calmly in a Sunday school session and my heart sank. They looked docile, frozen by the flurry of activity around them, afraid to move. The other kids milled around. There were kids teasing each other, some rolling on the ground, others jumping, and some roughing each other up.
And then there were my daughters sticking out like a sore thumb with their squeaky clean manners. They watched in horror as the other kids did what kids do best -– trash the rules and savor the moment.
“Your kids are so calm, I have never seen such calm kids in my life.”
One parent opined. Half choking, I gobbled up the compliment.
Later that afternoon, a friend called and asked if I could drop off my daughters at her child’s birthday party. There would be many other kids present and plenty of activities to keep my tots enchanted.
I asked my daughters if they were willing to go and they mumbled a weak yes. But they gave me one condition — I had to be there with them.
“It’s a kids’ party, girls. I promise you will be fine without me.” I cajoled.
“Okay, Mom, but please don’t be too long.” My eldest daughter quipped.
An hour later, my friend called me.
“I think you need to come, your kids are distressed.”
She blurted out on the phone, her tone laced with exasperation.
I drove back to her house and was treated to a pitiful sight. My daughters were huddled up in a corner with my eldest bawling her eyes out as her sister sat motionless beside her.
“Mama, you were too long!” they sang in a chorus.
As I scooped them up in a hug, some of the other kids gathered to watch us. I felt their gimlet stares boring through my soul. We had undoubtedly treated them to a spectacle.
As I lay in bed later that night, one thing was as clear as daylight. I had accidentally raised fearful kids.
All my well-intended parenting tactics and sacrifices had gone belly up. I had mollycoddled my kids too much and sabotaged their confidence and independence.
They were afraid of so many things other kids considered fun.
When had this happened? I thought I did everything right.
I Ditched My Job to Raise My Kids
When my maternity leave elapsed, I was paralyzed. The thought of leaving my fragile infant behind as I raked in the dough scared me witless. But wasn’t that what my mom friends were doing? Hiring babysitters and hurtling out to chase their dreams?
Not wanting to appear weak, I shooed away my misgivings and grudgingly trotted back to work. I didn’t last longer than one month though because I sorely missed my baby.
I gave my job the boot and dipped my feet into a new chapter in my life — the eventful life of a stay-at-home mom. As such, I have been wholly present throughout my kids’ lives. I’ve savored all their milestones.
I captured their first crawls and squealed at their rickety first steps. I held their chunky arms and thighs as they got their shots. When they didn’t feel well, I plowed through sleepless nights and nursed them back to health. I sleep-trained and potty-trained them.
I have gone the whole nine yards with my kids. We have been joined at the hip. They just need to look behind them and they will see Mama Bear watching over them.
I have been lurking in their shadows, protecting them, snow plowing their paths, obliterating every obstacle so they didn’t need to be afraid.
I May Have Instilled Fear In Them
My daughters were euphoric as we drove to the kids’ park on a crisp Saturday morning. They couldn’t wait to revel in all the fun activities. Meanwhile, I was busy conjuring up all the things that could go wrong.
“Don’t touch anything without our permission and don’t climb on anything by yourselves. I need you to be very careful, girls. . .”
I droned on with the rules.
As soon as we got there, my eldest spotted a girl her age blithely making her way up a climbing wall. Her jaw dropped.
“Mom, can I try that too?” She asked.
“No honey, that’s too dangerous!” I instinctively quipped.
My husband, who was within earshot, took my daughter’s hand and led her to the wall.
“You can do it, honey!” he cheered.
I watched with my heart in my mouth as my daughter took one step after another.
“Mama I did it!” She squealed triumphantly when she got to the top.
I stood there, befuddled as I took it all in. My husband’s searing gaze sent the message home. These are kids, not eggs!
In retrospect, I have taught my daughters to be too careful, too calculative, and risk-averse.
I have peppered their lives with cautions and warnings, afraid of anything bad happening.
“Don’t touch that, please climb down, that’s too heavy, you are going to break it, you can’t do that!”
I think I may have accidentally crippled their guts.
They are often afraid to even try something new.
They also suffer intense separation anxiety when I step away. And they don’t mingle easily with other kids, they take their time to thaw, conjuring up the risks.
Something has to change.
I Won’t Lie On This Bed
Granted, I made this bed. Should I lie on it? I don’t think so. I am going to rip away the sheets and make this bed anew.
To be honest, I was oblivious I was mollycoddling my tots all along. I was just being a good mother the best way I knew. But now that the scales have fallen off my eyes, I will do things a tad differently.
I figure it’s not too late to upset the apple cart. Mama Bear is raring to tweak the rules a little.
I Will Encourage My Kids To Make Their Own Decisions
When my kids hit a wall, they run to me. They also look up to me to quell their tiffs. I am constantly chiming in with suggestions and solutions.
In doing this, I may have ruined their decision-making and problem-solving skills. I need to step out of their way and allow them to whip up their own solutions.
They’ll Have More Playdates
My kids could use a little more interaction with other kids. Besides their friends in school, they only seem to enjoy each other’s company. Granted, I may need to wean them gently into playdates, which they expressly frown upon.
I will probably set the ball rolling by hooking them up with their cousins with whom they are familiar. I know they may be afraid to move from that into regular playdates. But, they need to learn how to interact freely with their peers and appreciate that there is life beyond our little family of four.
I Will Step Out More Often
My daughters are six and three years old but they still suffer from separation anxiety. My eldest throws a hissy fit when she doesn’t find me at home after school. To appease her, I run my errands earlier in the day so she can find me home. I am always there with waiting arms –- at her beck and call.
To fizzle out this separation anxiety, I may have to step out more often. I will revisit the coffee date offers I had stashed on the back burner.
I know it will take time, but I figure with the above adjustments, I may be able to set my kids back on course. Moving slowly into being less afraid and having more fun!