To Push or Not to Push, this is a question I struggle with as a parent. It's never easy to know when too much pushing is too much and will not result in success, but rather utter defeat for all involved. I have 2 children that are very reticent to try new things. New things are scary, unpredictable, and challenging for them. And, that is okay. However, it is not okay to hide behind fears and miss out on new experiences. But, when they are crying, shaking, and pleading, it is damn hard to push them. It takes every ounce of my being to do it, but I do it with love and compassion.
Case in point: Oliver started his first swimming lesson without me in the water the other day. He was so excited on the way there telling me how brave he was going to be. And then, we arrived and all that changed. As soon as those Spiderman flip flops came off, he began to fidget and finally ended up a pool of tears by the ladder. The amazingly understanding teacher was wonderful in giving him the space he needed while encouraging him as well, but to no avail. He was wrapped around me like a boa around a juicy rat, no joke. Pippa bent down and told him she would sit next to him on the edge of the pool and hold his hand. (Yes, I know, she really is that awesome all of the time.) He agreed but still refused to get into that aquatic abyss. The teacher finally winked at me and I knew I had to do it. I had to pick him up, screaming and crying, and hand him over to her in the water. Friends, this was not easy. As I peeled him off of me, tiny tears began to well in my eyes because I knew how hard this was for him. It forced him to face his fears head on, and that is never easy. And, of course, I felt like the worst mother of all time, but for just a second because as soon as he hit that water, he stopped. He paddled his arms, kicked his feet, went under water and came up smiling.
I'm writing this because this is a piece of parenting that rips my heart out. It is so very hard for me to watch my kids struggle with things that most kids do without thinking twice. It is not about comparison, but rather I love them enough to not let their fears and insecurities rule their lives. But, it is hard to know when to draw the line. When is too much pushing going to backfire? Am I awful? Should I let them just be?
The answer to these questions I'm still working on, but I've learned I know these offspring of mine rather well and know when too much is indeed too much. I also know that me pushing them tells them that I trust them. I trust that they will meet and rise to challenges, even when they are difficult...for them and me. I love them too much to be eaten up by their fears. They deserve more than that. I don't want them to be life's observers, I want them to live each day, participate in whatever they imagine. Because, in the end, the tears lead to smiles...on all of us.