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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!”
Photo Credits: Dani