October 4, 2018
Nothing emphasizes our lack of control more than being 32,000+ feet in the air traveling at a speed of 532 MPH in a metal container controlled by a stranger. Talk about faith. I hate flying. Period. Statistics that suggest it’s safer than driving do not sway me. Not even a little.
Currently, Paul and I find ourselves not only out of control but suspended between both children. Additionally, over 700 miles separate Maddy and Hunter. Currently, we can reach neither of them should a crisis occur. Nor, can they physically reach each other. Before we left, I reviewed with Hunter the “Just in Case” protocol. I know without a shadow of a doubt, if anything were to happen to Paul and me, my children could call on any number of people to support and to guide them. That is not my worry.
Can they navigate and problem solve in the interim?
My answer. A resounding yes. It may not be pretty. But they will do it.
Why am I so confident?
Tragedy, suffering, and heartache riddles our family.
This scenario demonstrates the reality of life. As parents, we desperately want to control, to protect, and to navigate the world for our precious ones. We only get one chance to help our children navigate this world. Instinctively, our desire to protect often comes a great cost. About the time I re-entered the classroom, psychologists coined the phrase helicopter parent. They identified this parent as one that hovered over their child preventing any trial from overtaking them. As soon as their child encountered an obstacle, they fixed it.
I distinctly remember one day when Hunter was in fourth grade. He forgot his Colorado History project at home. I reminded him the night before to put it with his backpack. He ignored me. Not soon after drop off, I received a call from him. In tears. Begging me to bring his project to him. I declined. He listed the names of peers whose mothers loved their children more than I loved him because they were bringing them their projects. It broke my heart.
He cried louder. I declined, again.
He is still alive. He lost points on his projects. But he survived. In fact, yesterday we celebrated his Provost Scholarship Award from GCU and his induction to the National Honor Society.
When I hung up, I bawled my eyes out. But I knew the reality of life. At times, it’s amazing. But often it is cruel and unbearable. I knew this was what my mom called a low cost lesson. Losing points on a 4th project that mattered, not at all, in the grand scheme of life did not impact his future academics or his value as the little human he was. It did, however, teach him the importance of responsibility. It also taught him that I can’t and won’t be able to solve all of his problems. Nor will I choose to do so.
My mom, my hero, reared my sister and me as a single parent. I am who I am today because of every intentional decision she made as she raised each of us.
When Paul and I began our parenting journey I quickly realized we did not navigate things in the same manner. I functioned in a manner that suggested Maddy and Hunter should navigate everything independently. Even potty training. Problematic plan for sure. He parented from a place of deep protection. He did everything for them. Balance existed somewhere between each of our strategies.
Psychologists today recently coined the verb Lawnmower Parenting. According to their definition, this type of parenting is helicopter parenting on steroids. Parents are no longer fixing problems when they arise. They are mowing them down before they even exist. This breaks my heart on many levels.
I worry for the parents in this situation. I worry because I believe deep-rooted fear consumes them.
I understand. I watched Maddy navigate the suicides of 4 friends. I watched her then navigate the uncompleted suicide attempt of another childhood friend. I watched Hunter navigate the deaths of 2 friends and a coach that he loved. Each of them navigated these events before either was 14 years old.
I worry about the children of these parents. I worry because life is unpredictable. Tragedy strikes when we least expect it. I wonder the cost of their choice to mow over even the smallest of obstacles.
Our ability to have answers within seconds, our decision to mow over issues creates a deep problem. Our children need resilience. I would argue that the more we put within their reach, the more they see solutions and answers to questions appear within the speed of our WiFi, the less resilient they become. If they are not challenged to navigate the “low-cost lessons,” the greater the likelihood they won’t be able to navigate the life-changing ones.
Please do not misunderstand me, there are times we absolutely step in to support and to advocate for Hunter and Maddy. But we do so now because we see when they need support because they, at times, carry the weight of the world.
Currently, Paul and I find ourselves sitting in our condo, safe and sound. We are no longer suspended between space and time. We are a few short miles from Maddy’s apartment. But we are several states away from my 6’0″ tall baby boy. Ultimately, we are still not in control. We can’t mow over the challenges Hunter will face in our absence. We can’t predict whether or not Carl, his beloved jeep, will get a flat tire or break down. But we know that he will be able to problem solve and find a solution.
I challenge you to allow your child to navigate one “low-cost lesson” a week. Embrace the heartache it will create in each of you. Talk through how it felt. Build resilience muscle. The process is painful, but the result is powerful.
Honored to Serve You All,
P.S. This letter is written from a place of a heavy heart. Our neighboring community is navigating 3 suicides within a week. In past years, I danced around this topic for fear that it would be too much. But I can no longer, in good conscience continue to do so. I believe as a SOLOS, a Survivor of a Loved One’s Suicide, I must speak my mind. I believe the more we take away our children’s ability to navigate challenges and build resilience the greater the challenges we ultimately create.
Parent Resources: Suicide Resources for Parents