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I want to protect my kids. It seems to be hard-wired into my mama DNA. I want to guard my children's hearts and shield their minds and keep their bodies safe. From the time they were in my arms, I could discern their cries and respond accordingly. I could hear the hurt or hunger or fear and everything in me would rise to respond. Because I love them so deeply, I want to protect my kids. Even when it may not be best.

Over-protectiveness

You see there is also a danger in being too protective. If I choose to be a helicopter mom circling over them in hyper-vigilance, they will miss out on the blessings that come from falling. Learning to get things wrong and try again, to make mistakes with grace, to learn from failures, these are all skills they will need when they enter life without me.

Granting adventure

Recently, my youngest son went off on his first scouting camp-out. While he is generally calm and deeply reflective, he could not wait for this time of male bonding with his dad and some of his friends. He slept in a tent, ran around in the dark, and came home tired and dirty.

As he unpacked his laundry and his stories from the weekend, he showed me a burn on his leg. The hot tip of a stick, right out of a campfire, broke off and landed just above his ankle. He had a scrape on his finger, bug bites everywhere and poison ivy on his face. There was a bruise on his eyelid, too.

As I looked over his injuries, he told me that he took a seven-mile bike ride over the weekend. He was so proud of himself for going the distance and riding a bike with hand-brakes and keeping up with the crowd of boys. He told me that he did wipe out once during that ride, and got the air knocked out of him. And lifting his shirt, he showed me a bruise on one of his ribs. I tried not to over-react to the hurt he had experienced. I listened to him talk about the things he learned and tried to be sympathetic about the fall. To keep him talking, I asked, “What was the best part of the weekend, buddy?”

“The bike ride!” he exclaimed, “For sure!”

Blessings from Falling

As I tucked my little one in bed that night, I was reminded that there are blessings that flow from struggles. Despite the fall and the bruises from the ride, my son found the blessings:

  • Persevering on within community enriches our fellowship. Sometimes the hurts our kids endure do not dampen their experiences at all. Instead the struggles create a new narrative of overcoming together that knits us together as a team.
  • We discover our strengths when we are tested. Because, while riding a bike with a bunch of his friends was fun, falling and getting up taught him something about himself. Dusting off gravel and rubbing out a bruised rib taught him he is stronger than he may have known. Getting back on that bike and working to catch up helped him to see a strength that my protection may hide.
  • We discover the joy of adventures. My sweet, cello-playing, book-reading, sitting-quietly-watching-nature boy has an inner fortitude that he got to discover and use. And it made the bike ride adventure, fall and all, the best part of his time away.
  • Discovering God is ever-present and forever faithful. God walks with our kids when they are out of our sight. Our children can talk to God and lean on him even when we aren't around. Jesus promises to be with us always (Matthew 28:20).
  • In allowing my child some separation from me, I am guiding my child on God's trajectory to one day leave his father and mother (Genesis 2:24) to follow God's calling in his own life.

I still want to protect my boy. It breaks my heart to see him hurt. But listening to my son’s stories is helping me learn to stand back. I need to learn the same thing he needs to learn--that he is strong and trustworthy. That he can learn to stand even after a nasty fall. And someday, he will mentor others in their struggles together. May the lessons learned now teach perseverance to future generations!

 

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