Moms, Stop Protecting Your Kids

I always hated hearing the sound of my baby crying. I’m sure no mother likes to hear their baby cry. But I really hated it. And I always did everything I could to make sure he wouldn’t cry. I never wanted him to be upset, sad, or stressed. I made it my mission to make sure he was always happy and satisfied.

The thing is, my baby cried a lot. Some babies do. And it really broke me. I felt like a failure as a mother and it contributed to my postpartum depression and anxiety.

As my kids have grown I still feel that motherly instinct to protect them from this cruel world. I want my children to alway be safe, comfortable, happy, and entertained. This is not a bad thing. It’s normal and I think most mothers would agree that they want to protect their children. I have realized, however, that I took this instinct to protect a little too far, and perhaps other mothers have as well.

Here’s when I realized I had taken it too far: I told my son to stop running on the sidewalk because I didn’t want him to fall down and hurt himself. Isn’t that a little ridiculous? He’s a child. Part of the fun of being a child is running with abandon. Skipping, hopping, dancing from destination to destination without a care in the world. By the time we reach adulthood we are boring and simply walk from place to place. But kids have energy and spunk. They enjoy running and jumping, and have such zeal for life. And here I was taking that away from my son because, why? Because I wanted to avoid a scraped knee? A bruise? And so what if he did fall down? It would turn into an opportunity for him to get back up, brush himself off, and keep going. What was I so afraid of?

It’s the same with life in general. I want to protect him from bullies. I don’t want him to know the pain of being made fun of or laughed at. I don’t want him to feel excluded or judged. I want to live somewhere on an island far away. Somewhere where I can shelter him and he would know only happiness. Our own little paradise. Wouldn’t that be nice?

But that’s not life. Instead of protecting him so much maybe I should let him out into the world. Maybe I should teach him how to be kind in the face of cruelty. Maybe I should teach him that just because something bad happens to you, doesn’t mean you should let it stop you. Life is full of hardships and obstacles. If I always protect my kids from this world, they won’t know how to live in it when they’re older.

Of course I will still do my best to keep my children safe. I believe in taking proper safety measures: car seats, holding hands, keeping my eyes on them instead of my phone, making sure they don’t come in contact with strangers, and all we do as parents to make sure our kids are out of harm’s way. But I don’t want to be overly protective. I want them to know that it’s okay if they fall down in life, literally or metaphorically. They can and will get back up again.