How far would you go protecting your kids?
It's not as dumb a question as it looks at first glance. Of course you will risk life and limb for your kids, my question is – how far would you go shielding them from the world's misfortunes, from knowing things that might make them worried or sad?
I've been thinking a lot about loss and sorrow this week. It's just one of those weeks, you know. As adults, we know that loss, sorrow, pain and hardship are all parts of life, unavoidable on the grander scheme of things. Giving birth, for example, is an unmeasurable happiness that cannot come without great pain. Losing a loved one is something we all dread, but know is eventually unavoidable. We learn to deal with them and we learn to accept them. But how do we learn all that? Who provides us with the tools, with the skills, to process pain, to tackle hardship, to overcome sorrow?
If you're unlucky, life will teach you these lessons on their own time. You will be faced with an overwhelming challenge and you will be forced to surmount it. If you're luckier, your parents will guide you thorough the challenges of life step by step, from easy to hard, until you are capable of dealing with hardships as an independent adult.
As parents, we make a point of keeping our children's lives trouble free. Let them know nothing of pain, of death, of sorrow. Let them be cheerfully oblivious to their existence. Let them pursue their lives without any worries, isn't that what's being a child is all about?
But I think there's an inherent mistake here. I think that the idea that being a child means being carefree is a misconception. I think that children begin being worried about stuff much earlier than we suspect, and that their worries are amplified by their naturally limited perception but also by lack of knowledge.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating screenings of Sophie's Choice to toddlers here, I'm just saying that by hiding the more negative parts of life from children, we inadvertently leave them to deal with them by themselves, with their empty toolbox. I'm saying that we need to give our children the credit of being aware of the world around them and not pretend they live in the Magic Kingdom where nothing bad ever happens.
Give them the privilege of learning how to cope with hardship with the compassionate and thoughtful mitigation of parenthood, and not being thrown unexpectedly out of your protective bubble by one of life's surprises.
And come back later this week for the puppies.