A soft place to land

Playground

File it under “Things I’ve Had to Get Used to as a Parent.”

That’s a pretty thick folder.

Spending time outside is a way of life. This wouldn’t be a problem except I hate to sweat, can’t deal with bugs, and feel my skin sizzling to a nice red crisp within .10 seconds of being exposed to daylight.

My kids, of course, love it. Hadley adores being in her stroller and swinging the hours away. Ollie, too, loves running around like a nut, getting good and sweaty, and catapulting himself down the slide.

Well, “catapulting” is a little strong. Much to his anxious mother’s relief, Oliver is a pretty cautious kid. He doesn’t leap from couches or reach out to hot stoves. My three-year-old takes me at my word when I tell him something is “dangerous,” and one of the first two-word phrases he strung together was “be careful!”

I struggle often with the push/pull of my anxiety and letting my children be children. What constitutes a legitimate danger, and what is simply a normal part of growing up? It takes all my willpower — a lot of willpower — not to shadow my kids like the proverbial monkey on their back. I’m glad that Oliver runs around at “school” without me, because I don’t think I could handle seeing him on monkey bars.

We went to the playground yesterday, and it was the first time I spent most of my time on the ground instead of squeezing myself into child-sized spaces. Oliver climbed a kid-friendly rock wall and went down a tall slide. Without me.

It was a big moment.

Anxiety confuses and deceives you, making everything feel like a fight-or-flight situation. Being a parent has meant I must get used to stepping back and letting my kids get dirty and sweaty and potentially bruised.

I don’t like it. It goes against my very nature. But I can step outside my nervousness and realize that “protection” is an illusion. No one can be protected all the time.

All we can do is be there to guide them.

And remain a soft place to land.

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “A soft place to land

  1. I remember those days of intrepid fear – will your little one manage/land safely/not get stuck. Luckily the fear becomes less as they (and you unfortunately!) get older. However, you still get to keep the loving arms they throw themselves into for a lot longer – you become a buffer of a different kind

  2. I can’t imagine how anxiety-producing it must be to be a parent! Sounds like you’re doing a great job working through what seem like some pretty rational fears and letting your kids be kids. There’s a great book called “Motherhood in the age of anxiety” out there, if you haven’t read it. It normalizes a lot of the stuff you’re writing about:).

  3. There is many more of these situations in your future. As scary as it seems now, I think the most anxiety-ridden I have ever felt as a parent is watching my boy go off to college. Suddenly, those anxious times when he first played on his own, went somewhere without me, and other firsts that are part of growing up seem paltry in comparison. Granted, all of those moments lead up to that one, but it is still the most scared I have been as a parent. It is interesting to see how our perspective changes as our kids age.

  4. Yes! I can relate to all of this. I hate being outdoors (bugs, heat, UGH) but Caleb loves it.
    Also, yes, it’s so hard to be a parent with anxiety. I think it magnifies things a lot for us that other parents may not be bothered by. For instance, the messes Caleb makes get my anxiety going, but I have to just let him be a kid. It’s so tough!

  5. I not at that stage yet of letting my son go wild. I do try to prevent accidents…but I learned that he literally is a “hard-head”. Ever time he fall…he doesn’t even cry…he just laughs. In a way, I’m glad he can handle.

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