Flashback Friday: Standing behind your kid.

I love this photograph.

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It’s an oldie but goodie, taken ten years ago of my oldest daughter and me.

To me it is the epitome of what parenting actually is: Standing behind your child, focusing on them, while remaining somewhat in the background.

Too many times in society, I see parents standing in front of their child, protecting them from everything:  experiences, consequences, and life in general.

You have the overprotective parents who are constantly on guard to prevent anything bad from ever happening to their children.  Not only are they insulated from kidnappers and dangerous situations, but they are sheltered from discomfort, or hard work, or pain of any sort, or tribulations.

The problem is when that happens, there’s so much interference that nothing good can happen to these children either.  It’s hard to know the sweet when you haven’t tasted the bitter, joy when you haven’t experienced sadness.  Then, when these emotionally swaddled individuals grow up they have no capacity for discomfort or pain, no stamina for trials.  Like overly-protected garden plants, after the first storms of life pass over, these crippled adults lie crushed on the floor, unproductive and unable to reach their potential.

Or, you have the parents that let their kids run wild, but when there are repercussions to their unrestrained actions, the parents jump in, shielding their offspring from the consequences.  I see this on the news all the time.  A first grader goes wild, destroying school property and hurting other students and you hear the parent saying in an interview, “Can you believe they put my six year old in restraints?  I’m suing!”  Well, yes, I can believe they restrained your kid because he caused thousands of dollars worth of damages and made other children bleed.  Wild animals belong behind bars.

These parents aren’t really interested in protecting their children, they’re concerned with protecting themselves.  If the situation is always someone else’s fault, then there is no reason to change their parenting or become more involved or pay for the consequences.

But even worse than the parents who stand in the way of their children,  obscuring their path, are the ones who are completely absent from the picture altogether.

Right now I’m reading a fabulous book called Eleanor and Park, by Rainbow Rowell.  Set during the 1980′s, it’s a book about teenagers and love and finding a place to fit in.  In a small way it reminds me of Bridge to Terabithia:  There’s a sensitive, sweet boy doing his best to fit in among the lackluster crowd, and a creative, far from normal girl, who prevents this.

However, Eleanor and Park also contains a mother who is constantly choosing an abusive spouse over her children.  And reading this hurts me, because I can’t stop being a parent even when losing myself in a good book.

All children, even fictitious ones, deserve parents who stand behind their kid and protect them from the truly evil things in life.

So back to the photograph:

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I suspect I love this picture, not only for the bald-headed cuteness that is my daughter, but because it reminds me to let my children experience their own failures, defeats, heartbreaks, and consequences, while supporting them from behind the scenes with so much love, it shines through my eyes.

What are your thoughts, Gentle Reader?

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7 Responses to Flashback Friday: Standing behind your kid.

  1. Cherie Lowe says:

    Ami, such a great post! Here’s the other thing I notice about the symbolism of this picture. See how focused your wedding ring is? Another key in raising kids well is a healthy and strong marriage. In fact, it’s out in front of your sweet little baldie. :) God, marriage, kiddo, self: a great ranking for us all, right?

  2. My husband and I have raised our children in a way that the older they get the more decisions they are expected to make. As adults they will be used to making decisions, not shocked when mom isn’t there to help them. I now have an adult child, which is the weirdest thing in the world. She is truly amazing. And yet, as an adult she is now making her own decisions. Not all of them are good, despite mom and dad’s warnings, we had to let her get hurt emotionally so that she can learn from it. This hurts me so much in so many ways; however, I can see that it will be a growing experience for her. Just as you said, we are standing behind her, loving her as much as we can while she prepares to conquer the world, not from her successes, but because of her failures. It seems like yesterday she was as small as your beautiful baby girl in the picture.

  3. Mindy says:

    I think you are wise. Very wise, indeed.

  4. Kristin says:

    unfortunately there are more and more parents out there that are constantly on guard for their kids, never letting them know how to fight their own battles or suffer consequences. I went back to my old high school the other day, to a gymnastics meet and after it was over I went to talk to my old coach. I asked her how she can keep doing this for so long and if she was burnt out, and her response was “It’s hard, these days! These kids are not like your generation was.These kids are spoiled, arrogant and when they feel like I’m too hard on them they go to their Mom’s and Dad’s and you know what? Their parents come to their aid and come to me to tell me that I’m being too hard on them!” How is it that parents don’t realize that the world is “hard on us” all the time and they can’t go around all the time telling “the man” to stop being so hard on my baby! We had a long discussion about this very topic and it is hard, hard to have to put up with parents like that and hard to put up with their kids, hard to be the parent and NOT be like that because lets face it, you don’t want to see your baby suffer, but some times it is the better option. It’s all about persepective, just like you said. You have to be there for them but on the side lines. You can’t make the plays for them and score the gaols for them but you sure as heck can be on the sidelines yelling and cheering them on. (I some how went to the sports analagy). I loved this post! If only parents all over could take it to heart, because many don’t/won’t and it makes the world even harder for the kids of the parents who let them fall down.
    You’re a good Momma, keep it up!

  5. I agree with Mandy. Wise words here, Ami. Wise words.

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