By Edward Lee
My son has not even made it to first grade yet, so I am in no way writing as a parenting expert. Instead, I am writing on the back end of an “Aha Moment” that I had a few months ago.
Originally the title of this post was going to be something to the effect of, “The Day My Son Fell Off the Bed.” But something told me that might not go over to well, for me. However, in a very safe, daddy protected way, that is what happened. My rough and tumble little boy kept jumping on the bed with no abandon.
And I kept warning and disciplining, until I finally told him I was going to have to let him fall.
To which he said, “Ok.”
Clearly he had no concept of what it was to fall, because I never let him fall before. I had always been there to catch him. So there was no concept of what a fall would be like.
So I put some pillows on the floor and stayed within arms reach to break his fall – then, I let him fall, first into my arms and then onto the pillows. And to be honest it was quite a point of growth for us both.
For my son, his first words were “Daddy that was scary.” Then he smiled and said, “Again, Daddy! Can we do that again?” In that moment he seemed to receive a dose of reality that ultimately will do him good. It was a realization that falling is scary and has consequences but also that he could survive and overcome falling.
It was a point of awareness that he just was not receiving from the sternness of my voice, alone. Of course I don’t expect this simple occurrence to stay with him all the way through life. But I pray, it is the foundation to him living life without overburdening fears of falling and failing.
For as much as my son grew in that moment, I also grew as a parent. The first year of my son’s life my wife and one of my friends called me a “Helicopter Dad.” Although I did not immediately know what they meant by that, I knew it was not exactly a compliment. Once I got the nerve to ask what they meant I found out I was correct – it was not exactly a compliment. My new nickname meant that, in their opinion, I was over protective, always hovering over my son – like a helicopter.
I am not so sure I should even take offense with that nickname, because there is a degree of protectiveness that I have and want to retain as a parent. But maybe, just maybe (I don’t want to concede too much, my wife is reading) I needed to loosen up just a bit. Instead of protecting from every fall, I needed to help him fall with grace and to learn that there was a getting up from falling down.
As I confess my own parenting growth, I think it spurs a deeper inward look to what we are parenting our children toward. Are we parenting them away from life’s cliffs? Or teaching them how to find a bridge when they are heading for a cliff? Okay, let me put aside the figurative language for a second and just say: there are real dangers and temptations on our children’s path that they need to be prepared to deal with. As I look down the road to what is next on my little guys path, I pray I am raising him to handle life.
Personally my biggest steps forward in life have come as a result of falling and figuring out how to get up. Yet as a parent I just did not want my son to experience the bump of that fall. Admittedly, the reality and growth for me over the past year has been, that while I know there are things he will have to face in life, I had to put it into practice. In fact if I protect him from every lurking possibility and give into his every request, I am really stunting the very growth I want to foster. There is a point when they need to be “hovered” over, but there also comes a time when you have to “let them fall.”
So how about you BMWK, share with me, how are you raising your child(ren) to be in position to face and overcome their fears?
Edward is an Ordained Minister, Bible College Professor, Pastoral Marriage Counselor, and Author of two first of a kind marriage books, Husbands, Wives, God: Introducing the Marriages of the Bible to Your Marriage and the soon to be released e-book, Husbands, Wives, God: 52 Week Devotional. To learn more about Edward and Husbands, Wives, God go to edwardclee.com or follow on facebook at Husbands, Wives, God.