Trigger warning: This essay describes part of a woman's journey with losing a baby.
He's almost there!
He's got it!
Nope, I was wrong.
At what point did I need to step in?
It was a perfect summer day and my 5-year-old son was riding his bike in our backyard. I couldn't have made it easier for him to practice. I rearranged various pieces of patio furniture to ensure that he had enough room to get around the in-ground pool. I was more than prepared to jump in if I had to.
Honestly, I was afraid of him falling and scraping a knee. Or breaking a leg. Or bashing his head open. Those types of injuries are very serious, you know. I had considered all the scenarios.
But most importantly, I needed to focus on the challenge my son was facing: He was a little low on strength and needed a push to get moving again. Should I give him that push? My heart said yes, while my head said no.
I am, admittedly, an overprotective parent.
It's in my blood. My father—to this day—still brags about how he managed to get through my first holiday without anyone dropping me on the head. I was a mere three months old and very delicate. Family and friends joked that my parents had the best baby-proofed apartment around. They always said it was the equivalent of living in a fully padded room.
Still, other circumstances have added to my protectiveness. My firstborn son passed away at only nine days old due to a congenital heart defect, leaving my husband and I devastated. When my daughter was born 13 months later, I was terrified. I made a promise to never let anything happen to her.
I will freely admit that I did not let her fall enough. She was born with hypotonia (low muscle tone), so I felt the overwhelming urge to protect her at all costs. With every step she took, I winced.
Most days, I have taken enough steps back—and have taken on a slightly different perspective—and I can have a good laugh about my over-the-top paranoia. Still, other days, I fall right back into the pattern, which brings me back to my son and his bike….
In the end, I didn't move. I let him figure it out on his own. As I am learning, there is a very fine line between being overprotective and letting them run without bounds. How do we manage to balance the two?
Mothers have that instinct of knowing when something is not right. But some of us have a tendency to overreact when our child gets hurt. Such is my dilemma. I don't leave much distance between my kids and me—my hovering is almost instinctual. I am trying to learn how to take a step back. Literally.
While I know my hovering won't go away overnight, I am figuring out how to give them more space. I have discovered that I can be present in their lives without directly being on top of them. Of course, it's easier said than done. I have been practicing at the playground, and along the way, I've noticed some things.
Watching my confidence grow, boosts their own. I see the little things. They are more likely to take risks and try new things. They are less timid. It is a pleasure to watch.
They will question things. They will fall. But in the end, it is up to them to figure out the solutions. Sometimes, they need to learn themselves that which gives them happiness.
I don't see myself changing completely. I am still the same overprotective mom, albeit a tad less smothering. I will always keep that watchful eye, even when they grow into adults. For now, I am going to enjoy the innocent bike riding stage as much as I can, because pretty soon, the wheels will get bigger.
And they will start to wander farther.
Through it all, I want them to know that I will still be there to pick them up when needed.
I wouldn't have it any other way.