One of the hardest parts of parenting requires that we stand back and do nothing while we watch our children struggle out of the cocoon of immaturity and let them stretch, reach and flap their wings until they are strong enough to fly.
We may want to peel the shell away from the baby chick pecking its way free, but the process uniquely strengthens and prepares them for freedom. The butterfly’s struggle to leave the cocoon pumps fluids into its wings so it can fly.
As an overprotective mom, I want to detail every step of my child’s path through life. As a pragmatic mom, I stand back.
As a wealthy mom, I want to reach deep and make all their financial problems disappear. As an observant mom, I know that is not necessarily the best solution. I remember that 97 percent of the winners of lotteries eventually found themselves in worse conditions financially. The money comes, the money goes, because they missed the hard-won lessons of struggling to stretch a dollar, of learning to say “no” to impulse purchases.
The harsh reality of life hits early.
For my grandson entering kindergarten this year, it came the second week of school. He really enjoyed the first week with all the new toys, the new friends, and being a big boy going to school. But nothing in life happens without a few glitches. Now he had to learn the rules of the new adult in his life, the teacher. She wanted him to sit down at certain times, to move on to other activities, to realize that in school we do not lay down on the floor to do the work and we say “yes ma’am” even when we feel like “no ma’am.”
Students who fail to comply get a slip of paper to take home to their parents. Two or three slips of paper is not good. His mom promised him a reward if he only brought home a few warning slips.
He did pretty good, but by the middle of his second week of school, he started the day out crying.
“Why are you crying?” his mom asked him. “Tell me what the problem is.”
“I have to be good all day!” he cried.
As much as his mother might want to take it all back, to keep him home and just teach him his letters and numbers, to go and tell the teacher to take it easy on her kid, he needs the lesson of plodding through the five or six hours of dealing with other people. He needs the discipline of learning to live in a world where he must be “be good all day” and finding a place to be “not so good.”
His little sister struggled with the same lesson.
Mom cannot make everything okay all day. She needs time to herself. So my daughter began setting aside time to gather her thoughts when her husband can parent the children. If they have a need, he is there. If they just want to sit and be cuddled, he is there.
But for the pre-schooler that was not enough. As she screamed her protest her dad asked, “what is wrong?”
“I want to be selfish. I want Mom. Now.”
She did not get Mom. Instead she had to accept her father’s comfort and allow her mother time to rest.
Encouraging our children to move out of the cocoon of their comfort zone feels miserable during the process, but such a blessing, such freedom, such pride when they discover their wings and fly.
Or as Trina Paulus writes in Hope for the Flowers:
“How does one become a butterfly?” she asked.
“You must want to fly so much that you are willing to give up being a caterpillar.”
(Joan Hershberger is a staff writer at the El Dorado News-Times.)