Fear. It wraps its gnarly tentacles around our mother hearts and won’t let go. It is the number one stumbling block to great parenting. I see it all the time. We are afraid that our children will get hurt, bullyied, traumatized or left out at school. We watch for signs of autism, ADHD, brain tumors and dyslexia. We are afraid our kids will feel insecure and we are afraid they will become over confident. We have become so fearful about our kids’ psychological, intellectual and physical health that all of the fun has gone out of being a Mom.
So let’s get the fun back and tackle our fears.
First, we must recognize where those fears originate. Psychologists tell us that when something we need is threatened, fear arises. I get that. I need my kids and I need them healthy. So, when their health and happiness is in jeopardy, I go nuts. My blood pressure rises and I go into fight mode. You do too. That’s what we do as Moms. We are fighters and keepers of our kids. So- we ask, how are we supposed to change that? Better yet- are we supposed to change those reflexes?
The answer is, no. Our reflexes are on target. Here’s where we go wrong (and this is going to hurt.) We live as though we need our kids. We don’t. We, as Moms, are given kids to love and cherish, raise and then let then go. But we shouldn’t need them as we do. This is far too great of a burden for them to carry and it is too big for us as well. Somewhere over the past generation of parenting, we have come to view children as the necessary components which complete us as people. They don’t. We were complete women before we had them. They come into our lives and we must love them like mad, but we don’t need them to complete us. So the first way to rid ourselves of fear over their health, is to reconcile that we were complete women before we had them. They are not an extension of us. They are separate and wonderful people. We should be crazy about them, nurture them, but draw clear boundaries between us and them.
Second, we don’t need our kids to be perfect. Each of us might say this outloud but live quite differently. We tell ourselves that we just want our kids to be happy, then fill out applications to premier nursery schools, sign them for activites which will develop every hidden talent they might have and groom them to go to Harvard or Yale. The truth is, we’re conflicted. We want them happy, but we live as though we want them perfect. We need to let go. Under the guise of having healthy expectations, every one of us (including our kids as they grow older) can read between the lines. The more excellent their performance in athletics, academics, the arts or in each of their undiscovered talents, the happier we are. Why? Because when they succeed, we feel like successful mothers. Again we give them too great a burden to carry. So let’s let go. Let us not be afraid to have wonderfully normal, non-Harvard going kids. Life can be a lot more fun this way. And if our child does end up choosing Harvard, she’ll enjoy it a whole lot more because she’ll leave home knowing that Mom didn’t need her to go. When we let go of needing our children to be perfect, we will fear the inevitable bumps she encounters along the way, a whole lot less.
Third, we need to come to grips with our limited power. Sure, we are the most powerful people in our kids’ lives (along with Dads) but even our influence is limited. We worry because worrying gives us a sense of control. We watch for trouble in our kids’ lives so that we can run in and rescue them. The problem for us is that many times our kids don’t need us to fix things and control every variable in their lives. And the reality is, most of what we worry about, we can’t control anyway. But here’s the great news: we don’t need to control all the variables. Life happens for our kids without us there and many times what happens is good. Life- even with its bumps- can be good for our kids without our influence and control. So it’s safe to let go of that deep need to control everything in their lives. In fact, life is better for them when we do.
Parenting from fear is never healthy. We don’t need to live as mothers who operate from fear because we really have very little to be afraid of. We must learn to love our kids without being needy of them, care for them without wanting perfection and give up mothering as though we have ultimate charge over every part of their person. We don’t and best of all, we don’t need to. And the best part of giving up fear, is that life for them and for us, becomes a whole lot more fun. So let’s have some.