The hardest bit of parenting – seeing the train wreck coming and discerning if this is the one you should step in and just let it roll.
I’m not talking about the physical wrecks. We’ve got a few of those stories in the English Family Storybook. Cooper at Keystone getting clobbered by a snowboarder (don’t ever let me find out who he was), Camber playing soccer, Cayden breaking…a nail. (I know…she’s the princess.)
Scraped knees, deep bruises, getting electrocuted helping dad change out an outlet – all of these will heal and provide stories of lessons learned and laughter. (Lesson 1: make sure you have right breaker turned off.)
I’m talking about the relational/emotional wrecks. Stuff like knowing that a certain friend isn’t a wise choice. He’s not going to be a stand-up guy, she’s so vain and selfish. Every word out of his mouth has a touch of anger. She is more concerned about the name on your clothes than the person in them.
And I don’t want my kids hurt. I don’t want them to feel the sting of betrayal or the pain of rejection. Here are my choices in these situations:
1. Ignore it.
Hope they figure it out, hope they make a good decision but man, I’m busy. I don’t know what to say. They won’t listen anyway. They won’t understand what I’m saying. You know (and probably have used) the excuses we make to justify keeping our mouths shut.
2. Try to control the circumstance.
I personally like this option. I’m not saying it’s the wisest or the best, just saying I like it because it gives me the false sensation that I’m in control. You can’t go. You won’t talk to them again. Defriend them on Facebook. Forbid them for talking, seeing, thinking about them or the situation.
This works real well until they are….9. Then I think it just sows seeds of rebellion. I’m not saying that I should ever use it. I do. There are times when I see a physical danger that the kid can’t see….and won’t see. So I take the hit as a parent. “No, you can not go to the mall alone, by yourself, without me even though every other parent in the world allows their kid to do this.” (Which they don’t but that is another post.) “No, you can’t spend the night with someone I don’t know or their parents aren’t home.” You get the drift.
3. Equip the kid, then let ’em ride. And then pray like crazy.
I remember the first time I watched Camber attack a black ski run. It was this wonderful mixture of complete fear and totally excitement. My dad was with me and he was screaming at me – “Are you going to let your daughter ski this?? This is irresponsible!!” (Never mind that the real reason he was saying this was because he couldn’t ski it.)
The point is — we’d train for this day all season long. Ski schools. Helmet. How to get on the lift by yourself, how to get off. Etiquette in the lift line. Learning how to fall. Learning how to get up. Learning the limits of control and speed. Practicing on progressively harder runs. Allowing her to test the limits of her skill on easier runs. Skiing with her, holding her between my skis when she got stuck. We’d been practicing for a while. I’d done all I could do except ski it for her.
It was time. It was never going to get any easier.
I’d equipped her the best I could. She had the skills. Would she apply them? Would fear take over? I was never going to know the answer to that question until I gave her that smirk and nod she’d been waiting for all season long. “Dad, can I ski this black yet?”
“Yeah…you can. I’m right behind you.”
And she took off.
Who knew that I was learning how to parent just as much as she was learning how to ski.
Equip them. Teach them how precious and valuable they are. Walk through what you see but leave the final decision in their hands. Get them the best equipment and training you can get. Let them practice and let them learn how to pick themselves up. Let the positives keep flowing from your mouth to their ears.
Then ski BEHIND them.
Let them make their own decisions on how to attack the mountain. Let them choose their own lines, their own turns, their own pace. Be there when they fall but don’t rescue them immediately. It’s the only way they will ever learn to be expert skiers.
If only it was as easy to parent as it was to teach our kids how to ski.