Imagine locking our kids up in quarantine to protect them from childhood illnesses. Unexposed to other human beings, they would never get fevers, runny noses or any childhood viruses. Sounds great? Well, apart from the fact that they would have no friends and no experience of life, there is another big problem. They would not develop any sort of immunity to any illness.
When the Europeans arrived in the Americas, they carried a weapon that was to win them the continent more effectively than guns and cannons – infectious disease, in particular smallpox. The native Americans had no immunity whatsoever. As many as 90% of them died from the disease in the ensuing two hundred years. In Florida, for example, a population of 700,000 in 1520 was reduced to 2,000 by 1700.
Covid has clearly shown us today the danger of a disease to which a population has no natural immunity.
And so…..we parents send young and vulnerable kids out into the big and scary world, allowing them to catch all sorts of illnesses when they are young, in the knowledge that this will provide immunity for them when they are older.
Similarly, every parent allows their child to attempt to walk, knowing full well that they will fall on their faces over and over again, hurting themselves in the process, until they have figured it out. Life is a full-contact sport – and shielding our children from it only undermines their immunity or prevents them from ever learning to walk.
There is a very natural parental inclination to bubble wrap our kids. It’s a protective instinct that is entirely understandable. But innocently, this almost always backfires. Because, in our eagerness to protect, they can end up failing to learn the most important lesson of their lives, the lesson of independence.
In my parenting, I feel that if I have one job, it is to help our kids become independent.
And that means trusting the process; trusting that the trials and errors of life are just what they need; that falling down and getting up again, getting sick and healing, are the perfect way for them to develop into balanced, healthy and confident adults that we’d all love to see our children become.
I see myself as a tinkerer, rather than a controller. I cannot manage the process of my children’s development. That’s a beautiful partnership between God and them. I want to be very careful not to meddle. I can give a little input here and there, some support, some guidance, some direction - and a whole load of love and belief in them. And then I sit back and watch as they go on their own journey of life, which is different to mine. Overlapping, but different. I sit in the background and do my best to be there when they need me - but equally, not be there when they shouldn’t.
I see parenting as a fine balance. Sometimes I get it right and sometimes wrong. But at the end of the day, it’s simply a privilege to have a role to play in the lives of the gorgeous and beautiful spiritual beings that are my children.
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