Every time my daughter grows an inch, I feel as if I know a little less about her, as if she is slowly inching away out of my warm embrace. When it was only “what to expect when expecting” I was fine. From the tinny embryo to the development of her lungs, I was on top of it. Now that I have her standing in front of me, close enough to touch, I am suddenly at a loss on what to do. Who is she, what is she becoming but most of all, what am I supposed to do, to help her along the way?
When it was just the two of us, it was hard but manageable. Adding other people to the mix, like teachers, her friends and other parents, makes my role of a Mother that more strenuous. I don’t know what kind of a parent I should be; so I don’t mess her up with my pent up and unresolved issues of growing-up while making sure she doesn’t accumulate childhood baggage of her own.
And nowhere am I more lost than on a playground. I know how important just simple playtime is. I have read all about letting kids be themselves, running around, jumping, swinging and climbing. The experts are all unanimous on the benefits; it encourages creativity, increases skills and helps children become smarter in the long run. Besides I don’t want to be the tiger Mom who makes her kids think life is just about fulfilling a set of goals, most of them not even theirs. I would like them to have the freedom to play. So, instead of filling their days with different classes, I take them to the neighborhood playgrounds and parks.
From hovering over her like an eagle so no one bothers her, to making her avoid certain playgrounds because certain kids can be too mean, to just resigning and letting her fight her own battles – I have tried it all. Because what nobody really wants to admit is that apparently playgrounds are a battlefield. Just the first in the series of life’s battles our kids are about to face. And I have no clear answer on how to deal with the bullies, with crybabies, with those that don’t want to share anything, with all the characters one encounters there. But I have realized that I can’t fight her battles, like who cut in line and who took her stick, who doesn’t want to play with her, these are just the ones she’ll have to face on her own or she will never learn to do it herself. While I do wish I could give her the world in every sense of the word, I apparently have to cede at the very beginning.
I thought about it long and hard and after many sleepless nights I firmly believe playgrounds are kids’ business. Solving issues for them makes them less competent and more depended on me I won’t be able to save her from douche of a boss, or clients who always have to be right, but I can prepare her for life with these seemingly small victories and losses. Perhaps it might not be about providing everything for her; perhaps it’s equipping her with enough of different situations she learns to take care of herself.
If I look at the playground and everyone there, I am scared at what kind of grown-ups our kids will become. We don’t need to admit it out loud, but we as parents would do basically anything to keep our kids content, even to the point of making them incompetent to deal with real life; “my child is always right, and she’s the best at everything without even trying, and why should she share when I can get her that toy she wants…”
It might sound cruel but I am determined to let my child fail, to feel the heartache, to know what is unfair, because that is the only way I can make sure she will truly be able to succeed and be happy with herself. No piano lessons, no French and no art class will make her learn more about the world we now live in, than trying to play on a playground, making friends, dealing with bullies and avoiding the crybabies. I’ll watch, I’ll still try to move in and fix it, but I’ll do my best to learn as I go along and let the playground be my kid’s business and not mine.