When Your Daughter's in Greece...
And Then There's an Earthquake
Put this under the category of “You Cannot Protect Your Children from Everything.” I was brushing my teeth this morning, getting ready to leave for work, when my sister texted me asking if Mary (my daughter, who is in Greece right now) was okay after the big earthquake in Turkey and Greece. What?! Once my heart restarted, and I was able to breathe, I vibered (is that a word? Viber is a free app similar to Skype). Not hearing back immediately, I called her. Twice. Voicemail. Voicemail. My mind immediately went to imagining her under a pile of Acropolis rubble, injured and unable to get help. Then I got what I had been praying for – a Viber alert. But it was my other daughter saying the damage looked really bad. After what seemed like an hour, Mary sent a message that she was fine. She would call me later.
Isn’t that the way it is with kids? We are somehow under the illusion (delusion?) that we can protect our children from hurt, pain, illness, injury, heartache and whatever else life might throw their way. Of course, the reality is that we can’t really protect them. And, sometimes well-intended protection only ends up making them less able to handle life’s challenges on their own.
A natural disaster is something I can’t control. My heart goes out to those who were injured and killed in this earthquake. And, feeling the horror their loved ones must feel is just unthinkable.
Stating the obvious, there are many things in life we can’t control, which this earthquake so graphically reminded me. We can as parents, however, prepare our kids for gracefully and courageously facing the inevitable adversities and challenges they will face. Of course, we want to support and listen and nurture our children in their times of hurt, but we can’t go through the hurt for them.
Believe me, I’ve made all the parenting mistakes, including:
- Feeling responsible for my children’s happiness
- Being competitive with other parents
- Trying to over-explain things
- Being a bad role model sometimes
- Expecting my children to be different from who they are
- Allowing myself to be influenced by other parents when I know best for myself and my family
- Doing too much for them
There are so many ways to mess up. But, to me, it all comes down to fear. Fear that my children will be hurt, physically or emotionally; fear that they won’t “get ahead” in life (whatever that means); fear that they won’t understand what I’m trying to teach them; fear that they won’t be happy (whatever that means); fear, fear, fear…. most of it unreasonable.
Letting go of those fears, knowing you’re doing your best, and allowing children to discover the world by making their own mistakes and having their own successes, to me, is one way to be a confident parent.
I can’t predict or prevent earthquakes in Greece any more than I can predict or control my children’s lives. The frightening 30 minutes or so of uncertainty reminded me that I should appreciate the here and now – or, as the current cliché goes, “be in the moment.” I can do that, but I’ll sometimes continue to make a final parenting mistake: If they go somewhere such as Greece, I’ll live vicariously through my children.