Monday, 21 October 2013

Staying Sane Amongst the Insanity

Seven years ago when my husband and I welcomed our first beautiful child into the world, life was instantly changed. We were faced immediately with all new challenges, strained and exhausted, and struggling to maintain composure as we stumbled through the first few days, weeks and months of parenting. When we decided to have children, we knew things would be different and we would have to change our lifestyle a bit. We did, however, make some important promises to ourselves in order to maintain some sanity while our lives as we knew them turned upside down. 

Lately I have been reminded over and over about one of those important promises. Our children are precious, and it is our job to protect them. In order to keep them safe, we took a page from our parents' book. We teach them to avoid dangerous situations, chastise them when they're being deliberately unsafe, and give them the knowledge they need to travel throughout their young lives relatively unharmed. What's crucial in not losing our minds with the stress of maintaining their safety is that once they've heard all of our lessons, we let them go, free to explore, to make mistakes, and to live up to the responsibilities we've allowed them.

A comment on my last post made aware of a story by Parachute Canada suggesting that children under the age of ten should not ride on the road because they don't have the mental awareness and capacity to ride amongst cars. As you are likely well aware, we ride on the road with our children all the time. We are acutely aware of dangers when riding on the road, which is why we stick to quieter streets and dedicated cycle tracks. That being said, how on earth will our children ever learn to look after themselves when they enter their independent teen years if we don't provide them with the skills they need while they are still young and willing to learn from their parents? Each trip we take with our children, whether riding bikes, walking or taking transit is an opportunity for us to make our children mindful of the obstacles they'll face when we are no longer at their side.

Photo courtesy of Mike Hollingshead
Just this past week was an example of how if I just let go and give a bit of freedom and trust, my children will be fine. Our daughter, for the second year, took part in her school's Cross Country team. Her participation meant two meets at John Hendry Park, and a race route that took her around the full length of Trout Lake and out of my sight. Instead of being worried about what may happen as some parents around me were, I knew my daughter was running with countless other children, with one focus, get to the finish line. She would not be stopping to talk to strangers along the way, and with the park being well populated with other people in the neighbourhood. I knew if she hurt herself, there would be plenty of kind people willing to lend a hand and that she would be ok. As I expected, she arrived red faced and beaming after both races, and knew to look for me as soon as she received her ribbon.

Whether being a spectator at my daughter's race, or travelling with my children throughout the city, I could expend so much mental energy worrying and stressing about their well being. With everything children get up to, I would genuinely go insane if I spent all my time thinking about the possible outcomes. Instead, I find it much healthier to accept that since July 2006, my husband and I have made it a point to teach our kids to be responsible. As a result, we trust them to make decisions that aren't going to put them in harm's way. It is inevitable that they will still make mistakes, but by focusing on the positives instead of the "what ifs", we get to enjoy every moment just a bit more. I will freely admit you need to be slightly unhinged to give up your own freedom to have children, willingly exposing yourself to sleepless nights, fighting siblings, and strained pocketbooks. So I will remain happily armed with the confidence that my kids have enough common sense to be smart and safe. Outside of that, there's always a nice glass of red wine to calm the nerves and keep me sane enough to deal with what lies ahead. After all, we're just six short years away from... the teen years!

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