I’m an overprotective mom by nature. Seriously, it’s genetic, a horrible attribute passed down from a domineering Jewish mama who got it from her own “smother” and so on.
The only difference between me and my ancestors is that I am aware of this trait and try to make a conscious effort every day to not allow my innate desire to wrap my kids in bubble wrap and hide them safely away from the dangers of humanity take over. It’s hard to swallow my fear and silence the “what ifs,” but I know that my own anxiety cannot drive my parenting decisions. If I did, my kids would be locked up in a turret. Rapunzel’s mother, while an evil witch, really did think she was protecting her, and we all saw how well that turned out. Rapunzel runs away with the first guy who climbs the tower … and she did it without wearing any shoes. What’s up with that?
My point, besides the importance of proper footwear, is that there is going to come a time when you, as a well-meaning parent, are going to have to put on your big girl panties, swallow your own worry, and let your kids experience life, a little freedom, and maybe even take a few calculated risks! TRAVEL is the best way to do this, too. Be it summer camp, a school/church trip, or even a foreign exchange program, sending your kids packing – without YOU – can be a life-changing growth experience … for you both!
Being exposed to new places, cultures, food, and people helps us grow and figure out our place in this great big world of ours. So why wouldn’t we want our kids to explore this, too? And while traveling as a family is wonderful, it’s not the same.
If you are like me, then when your kids travel with you, they don’t sweat all the details. I am the one who usually holds the boarding passes and passports and makes sure they don’t sleep through the alarm and miss our flight. But when Mama was not on the recent New York trip that my then 15-year-old daughter took with her theatre troupe, she had to do all that on her own. Yes, I got a frantic text from the airport when she realized she forgot to pack her phone charger, but by the time she landed, she had already calmed down and had come up with a solution. Valuable life-coping skills that will serve her well for years to come. And had I been there to just hand her my charger, perhaps she wouldn’t have learned that she could handle stressful situations?
And so, as I try hard to quiet my inner neurotic, overbearing, mama bear instincts while I help my son pack for his upcoming 12-day Eastern European adventure, I do so while knowing that he is prepared. And if something does come up that he wasn’t prepared for, he will (just like my daughter did) figure it out. And in doing so, he will come back from this trip a bit more mature, with an increased sense of self, more independence, and ready to head off to college.
But just in case, I am still double checking to make sure he has packed his shoes!