My grandchildren and I visited the zoo. There was so much to see, explore and experience. My grandson is three years old and his curiosity is in full swing. My granddaughter is two and she is fearless, exploring everything around her. So you can imagine how my senses were on full alert trying to keep them out of harm’s way and still have fun.

There is always a battle going on inside of me when it comes to protecting my children and now my grandchildren. On one side, the mother bear in me wants to keep them out of harm’s way. Yet the other side, the pre-school teacher, wants to give them freedom to try new things so they can grow with a spirit of confidence. Both are in constant battle. I have to always be conscious on balancing these two sides in hope my fears won’t transfer onto them. 

At the zoo, three different battles were happening within me:

1. We were walking along a trail on our way to see the animals and a very large black snake (not part of the zoo) was crossing the trail, and of course a group of children began screaming. Once we realized what the commotion was, I had to explain to my grandson what was happening and why we couldn’t “Go, Grammie.”

Do I allow the fear to take over and say the negative things that “could happen” (I am fearful of snakes) and freak him out (the mom/grandmother)? Or, can I be fearless and turn this into an extraordinary learning experience (the teacher)? I chose to explain to him calmly why we had to wait, and we inched as close as we could and watched that snake slither away into the woods. He was fascinated, had many questions, and I answered them in a positive way and still kept my cool.

2. The second battle began a little while later when we came to a kid’s play area and there was a stream the children could take their shoes off and play in. My two year old granddaughter, the explorer, saw the water. Nothing was going to stop her. She wanted her shoes off and wanted in the water.

Fearful me is imagining her falling face first, cutting her feet on the pebbles, or someone grabbing her when we turn our backs for a second. But, I chose again to let go. Let her feel the cool water on her feet and if she fell, I would help her up. She did fall, on her bottom, pants and all. She didn’t care! At that point, neither did I.

3. The final battle came when we spotted a bridge taking us high up into the trees. We like to go on “adventures.” Safe, Grammie-approved adventures. I’m not a fan of heights. So you can imagine when we arrived at the bridge and they wanted to go up and up and up.

Fearful Grammie is picturing vertigo the rest of the afternoon, and bugs (I don’t do bugs either) falling into my hair. Cool, let it go, adventurous Grammie said, “Kids, let’s do this!” And away we climbed – the whole length. All was well when we came back down. Then I heard, “Let’s do it again, Grammie.” Grammie decided it was time to go find the giraffes!

What is the point – overcoming our own fears so we don’t transfer them to our little ones. If we hold them back from experiencing and trying new things, in fear that something bad may happen, we are not allowing them to be kids. We need to discover who they are, what interests they have and enjoy doing things with them. Yes, we must keep them safe. Common sense is the rule here. Yet, constantly saying things such as, “You shouldn’t do that, you’ll GET hurt,” or “I don’t think so, what IF something happens,” will only stifle independence and creativity and lead to a lack of confidence.

It wasn’t always easy allowing my children to venture out and try new things. I had to work on letting them go even if I was afraid of the unknown. There were times where I would be so fearful that something would happen to them, it kept me in a constant state of anxiety. Now that I have grandchildren, I’m not going to allow fear to dominate me or my time with them. I will protect them, but I will also balance our adventures with “Let’s do this, kiddos!”

If you enjoyed reading this adventure with my grandchildren and I, you may want to read Investing Time In Your Grandchildren.

Photo Credits: Dani


  1. It is so hard Michelle,especially as a grandparent not to try and smother our grandchildren. We feel the added responsibility to take care of them but the best gift we can give them is to allow them to find their confidence and independance. Loved your photos x

  2. I always tried to bluff my way through my fears so they wouldn’t impact on our kids – and left my husband to be the adventure person. I did draw the line at anything that involved possible death or dismemberment though!

  3. My husband and I were discussing this issue recently. Our grown son was doing or enjoying something that caused me personal angst. I mentioned to hubby that I worked hard not to transfer my fears to the kids. Like you did at the zoo, I tried to play it cool. He agreed and said he tried to do the same. The result is that many of the things that make us uptight didn’t get transferred to them. Of course, a few still did – what are you gonna do? 🙂
    Enjoyed your post!

  4. Yes! It’s all about balance for sure. I think by bringing all of the elements that make you, you, you were able to keep the kids safe while letting them be kids and have a joyous experience!

  5. I love this post and all it stands for – and I think it’s important for parents to read this too. So many are super protective and that breeds fearful children! Like Dory says, “You can’t never let anything happen to him – then nothing would ever happen to him.”

    Good words – sharing on Fb this week (for moms, and grammies)!

  6. As a mom I am constantly trying to take my fears and place in a box away from my children so they can excel. It is so difficult to put on a brave face so I don’t harm the passion for things my children love. I am finding that by putting my fear on the back burner my kids are teaching me to overcome the fears by showing me that what I am afraid of is nothing in the long run.

  7. My mom has always been so much more protective it seems with her grandchildren. I honestly don’t remember her being super fearful about things with me when I was growing up but maybe I’ve just blocked it out.

  8. This is an interesting perspective from a grandmother. I battle the same fears with my daughter. She’s so bold and persistent! Though my first instinct is to keep her safe, there’s also that nagging feeling in the back of my head that tells me to allow her to experience things. Like you said, this is how they learn and live their life, and as parents and grandparents, we have to let that happen on its own. Thanks so much for such a thoughtful post! Saying hello from Tuesday Talk!


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