Fredericksburg Parent

August 2017

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www.FredParent.NET 33 But when I coddle, I hurt them. If I keep myself at the center of their universe, helicopter parenting and serving their every need, ultimately, the goal of independence is under- mined. It's much harder to stay in the shadows and watch my kids successfully dodge one bad decision only to perform a dramatic faceplant when the next major obstacle reveals itself. But how else will they learn? After-school activities can become a common pitfall for par- ents, because it's so hard to resist micromanaging. Colleges want well-rounded kids, so we are apt to sit at the controls of this key area of our kids' lives. I once knew an infl uential couple in Washington, D.C., who required their kid to learn a stringed musical instrument and a foreign language. My eyes lit up at the idea, because it sounded like an insurance plan to turn out accomplished, polished children. My husband disagreed, and we ended up not taking this approach. In retrospect, it was a sound decision for us. Today, our daughter, a natural linguist, is an advanced French student completely of her own choosing. When she was little, she elected to take piano lessons but after a few years tearfully confessed that she loved her teacher, not the piano. With our blessing, she quit and later picked up the guitar for fun. Today, her story includes a foreign language and music. Had we forced things, she'd possibly have resented us and done less. We want to choose enrichment activities for our kids, yet how they choose to occupy themselves fosters organic interests. With no encouragement or family history touching the subject, our son has invested hours in educating himself about supercars, affording him an impressive knowledge base. He's motivated from within, and as his parents, we take absolutely no credit for it. We can't know now if this will play any part in his future, and that's not the point. The point is that he chose it for himself. Having lots of space for exploration when it came to electives and hobbies allowed our children to fl ourish and feel they "owned" their interests; they weren't being coerced or simply satisfying what we put in motion for them. Handing over general decision-making authority to our teens virtually guarantees temporary discomfort for us parents. But it's likely that holding on in an effort to keep our kids on that supposedly safe path will only hamper their growth and contentment. So, it's true that I am a safety mom. Sometimes I snow-plow. I have been known to hover. But by opening my trembling fi sts and letting my kids fi nd their own path at their own speed, I'm giving my kids the freedom to grow up on their own terms. And it's worth it, no matter how uncomfortable it is for me.

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