The kids and I went to a new (well, new to them, anyways) playground this morning, and they were of course testing out the waters, seeing what they could climb, jump off of, and slide down. They are all usually pretty adventurous, and while I admittedly used to hover a bit when my oldest two were younger, I've now found great comfort in hanging back and letting them find their own way.
Today, when Evelyn attempted the big kid slide for the first time, she checked to make sure I was nearby before she climbed the stairs. She sat at the top of the slide and asked me to wait at the bottom. "Come closer mommy! Catch me!" she cried. So I did, and when she reached the bottom, I found that she really would have been just fine without me there. She may have been scared because of a long-ago previous slide experience where the force, angle, and slipperiness of the equipment made her slam right off of it and into the ground in an ego-damaging butt-plant. Maybe she thought she needed me there to save her from potential harm. But she was fine.
So, the next time she went down and implored me to catch her, I told her that I'd instead watch from the sidelines. "No baby," I said "I won't catch you this time."
She went on to slide down by herself over a dozen times, and I heard her say, "Dat was AWESOME!" with a legitimate fist pump for added enthusiasm. I saw her get bumped by someone coming down after her and heard her respond, "I'm okay." I saw her do things by herself with pride, over and over again.
There will be so many times in life that they will fall. That they will stumble. That they will walk a rocky road life will be hard. In this world we will face trials and tribulations, right? It's a given. And as their mom, it's instinctual to want to shield them from harm. But doing that every time won't teach them about real life. I've learned that it's okay to say "I won't catch you."
That's not to say that I relinquish my responsibility to care for them when they are hurt, or that they need to fend for themselves in every single way. That's crazy. I know that they need me. But they also need to learn how to fall and brush themselves off. They need to make mistakes, own them, and learn from them. And they can't do that if I'm always standing in front of their fears or opposition. I know they are little now, but as we all know, time flies by at an alarming rate when you're raising your babies, and they won't be little for long. Before I know it they will be in high school, and then in the vast beyond known as the real world. They will need to operate and face failures without me. So, in small ways here and there, I will choose to say, "No baby, I won't catch you this time." And I hope it adds up to make a big impact on their hearts.