My 6-year-old daughter almost rode her bike off the driveway and into a car tonight. The good news is the driver saw her and screeched to a halt. The bad news is she almost gave me and my husband a heart attack.
As we yelled “STOP!” I ran and grabbed her handlebars to curb the bike. After recovering and realizing she was okay, I looked up to see the driver, completely shaken and yelling out her window at me, something about her heart almost stopping. She was very angry. I could understand her being upset, but I wasn't angry at my daughter. I was just so glad she was okay, I couldn't be mad at her. I could see she was shaken and I did not want to scare her even more. Although I know she did not understand the severity of the situation, she knew something bad almost happened.
I turned my head for a second and she almost drove into a car. I was more upset with myself. Aren’t we as parents supposed to protect our children? And if we look away for one split second, it could could be one second too long. But when is it TOO much?
Last week my older daughter came home from a play date and asked if I was the “O” word? Completely confused and wondering if this was some kind of swear word she was trying not to say, I asked her what she meant. She went on to say she couldn’t remember the word exactly, but her friend said it meant something like I put lot of sunscreen on her and am always watching her. Oh, I said realizing she was definitely describing me … OVERPROTECTIVE.
“Yes!” she exclaimed, “that’s it!” When I asked her what she told her friend, she said she didn’t really know what it meant, but "if she is, my mom probably doesn’t want anyone to know.”
I had to smile. Yes, I told her I was definitely overprotective, but that’s a good thing. It means I love you. A lot. And don’t want anything bad to ever happen to you.
As the oldest of three girls, I had a tendency to “mother” my sisters. I remember being 10 and feeling so proud that I was allowed to watch my sister while my mother was in the other room or feed her all by myself when she was three. One summer I made up and wrote down detailed fire escape instructions for my family, a plan which included jumping out our bedroom windows (ground level) and waiting at a specially designated spot for the fire engines to show up. I have no idea why I thought I needed to prepare everyone. We never did have a fire.
I think it’s been my lot in life to be overprotective. “You are not are not mom!” was a favorite saying among my sisters.
It’s only natural that I would be an overprotective parent. I remind my girls time and time again to be careful and to know what to do if they get lost. They learned their home address and telephone number before they could walk, and yes, I put lots of sunscreen on them. I insist on bike helmets, socks with sneakers, and no swimming unless an adult is present. I also tend to remind my husband to wear a baseball cap or put sunscreen on his head when out in the sun. And I make everyone crazy in my house with the hand-washing-prevents-the-spread-of-germ thing.
But I have to ask, how does one become less protective? As my girls grow, mature and become more responsible, I look forward to easing off some of my overprotectiveness … but the reality is, how do I do this? How do parents become less crazy protective when it comes to their children?
I sometimes wonder if I'm doing a disservice by protecting them too much and not letting them figure it out by themselves. The ol' "if they get hurt, then they will learn from it and not do it again." Then I remember who I am. And who they are ... and reapply more sunscreen.