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Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Mothering or Smothering?

Since I was five years old, I've had asthma. My parents had no idea what to expect from an asthmatic child, so my mother's first instincts were to rush into overprotective drive. In the winter, back in the day when girls weren't allowed to wear pants, she would dress me in leotards. Under the leotards I wore bulky long underwear.

The school uniform consisted of a wool skirt, a short-sleeved blouse, and a vest. Over the vest I wore a sweater – buttoned up. Over the sweater was a heavy winter jacket. I also wore a hat, gloves, a scarf, and boots. (My sister Cindy once drew a picture of how my sisters and I looked – like giant balloons bouncing down the street. One swift wind would have blown us sky high.)

By the time I got to school, which was four blocks away from my home, I was drenched in sweat. I was always the last child to undress at the lockers. Until my body acclimated to the indoor conditions, I would shiver until the sweat dried up.

However, after having children of my own, I understand why my mother was so over-protective. She was afraid she would lose me to one of my asthma attacks. All of her actions generated from fear.

I operated from fear all of my children's lives too. I still do. When one isn't happy, I'm the first one to rush in with remedies. We all want to raise happy and healthy children and many parents will do whatever it takes to ensure a happy healthy outcome.

But are we smothering our children? I recently read an article in Ladies' Home Journal, entitled, Smotherly Love, written by Michelle Blake. Michelle wrote, "The truth was that seeing my children unhappy made me unhappy. And I didn't like that….my kids could sense my anxiety in the vibrato of my forced cheerfulness and my fumbling attempts to suss out crucial information…Too often they got the message that the fleeting unhappiness brought on by disappointment of any kind constituted an intolerable burden–for them and for me. It was better not to try than to fail, better to stay in your  known little world and avoid the judgments of the wide and wicked universe."

As parents, we are forever learning. My children are all grown and I'm still jumping in to save them from sorrow. But I have to remember that when they first started walking, they, like every other baby, fell numerous times. I had to learn that it was OK for them to fall, that I didn't have to be there every second to pick them up or to make sure they were not hurting. I have to learn to allow them to fail too, so they can pick themselves up again and move on from their pain or their sorrow.

Our goal as parents is not to insure our child's happiness, but to support our child when he or she fails and succeeds. Children have to expect to feel pain in their lives and we have to learn how to step back and allow our children to live their own lives. If we smother them with love, they won't be able to breathe.

If you would like to read more from this author, click any of the following links:

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