Monday, August 13, 2012

Roots and Wings

There’s a new-ish term I’ve been hearing a lot lately - helicopter parents. It refers to those parents, usually mothers, who hover over their children, scheduling every aspect of their lives, and going to extremes to shield them from disappointment and difficulty. No doubt about it, the mothers’ behavior stems from loving and wanting only the best for their children. I, too, share this desire, but my methods are a little different.

We know that exposure to germs in childhood helps strengthen the immune system and protects children from developing allergies and asthma. Ongoing studies are also suggesting that there is an age threshold to this building up of the immune system – lack of exposure during the early years can’t be compensated for in adulthood.

And just as our immune systems need the “good hurt” of microbes in order to grow strong, so, too, our minds and hearts need the bumps and falls of real life to strengthen our character, wisdom, empathy, moral fiber and determination. It is also through the experiences of life, both the so-called bad times and the good, that we discover where our passions lie and reveal talents we may never have otherwise discovered.

Anyone who spends even a little time around my kids and me will no doubt hear a lot about facing fears. It’s natural for children to be insecure and maybe even afraid of the unknown.  Give them a break, they’re new at this thing called life. But they are also very resilient. Need proof? Go to any first day of kindergarten, and you are likely to see many children holding on tightly to their parents, not wanting to be left alone in a strange place.  We all know where this story ends, right? By the end of the first day, friendships have been formed, a new community has been created and the kids can’t wait to go back the next day.

So, to help my three little ones develop their fear-facing muscles, I make sure that they get plenty of opportunities to discover and conquer their things-that-go-bump-in-the-

Recently, we had a family team building day –a day to step out of our comfort zones and expand our knowledge of what we are capable of.  We were all thrilled about the day of hiking and extreme sports we had planned.  As we spent the day standing on tall platforms, flying through trees and climbing higher and higher, we cheered each other on and created our own safety net of love and support.

At 4 1/2 years of age, our youngest team member, Jayden, showed admirable bravery as he went through both the beginning and advanced zip line courses.  Up 73 feet in a tree and then going down a 750 foot run, he was all smiles, all the time. I was so proud of my littlest one, and couldn’t even imagine what avenues opened up for him as experienced a real life example of the phrase “I can do it.”

Annie and Nicholas have been excited about going zip lining since they first became aware of the sport.  Every time we spotted eagles circling the big sky around our home, I heard, “We want to fly like the eagles, mama!”  Well, the time had finally come for them to fly and they wanted to do it big. We had a fantastic time zip lining on a 12 line course. But, that wasn’t enough for my daredevils. We then did a Tarzan swing -  lifted straight up a tree 55 feet, we released the handles, and proceeded to drop swing sharply downward, followed by a pendulum out on a rope to about a 65 foot span! Was it scary? Heck yes. But it was also in the top ten most fun things I have ever done.  

Oh yes, in case you’re wondering, the kids enjoyed it a little bit, too. Jayden, being too small to hold on to the handles and be lifted up so high, used it only as a swing. And that made him feel strong and important, as he did it on his own.

That day, we did face some of our fears. When any of us had second thoughts, we all rallied around and encouraged each other to go for it.

In the end what we thought we could not do, we mastered. The pride, self worth and confidence each one of us earned is now ours to cherish. And our family bond became even tighter. 

Was I scared for my children? You betcha.  Part of me wanted to ask them to take it easy.  If I ever smell just a hint of danger around Nicholas, Annie or Jayden, the mama lion in me rears her head and puffs out her chest, ready to fight to the death to protect my babies. Most of the time, though, I have to tell her to cool her jets, because the danger facing them isn’t anything they can’t handle. With me standing behind them as their ultimate line of defense, of course.

And there you have it. My constant challenge. Being a mother who is willing to let go, to give her children the roots of love and the wings with which to fly in life, takes me, facing my fears, every single day.


  1. This is really so awesome Tamera :) You have just opened the side of me that has been locked up since my stroke. You are truly like a "God send"

  2. This is so true! We spend so much time worrying about our fears that we forget to live! Thanks Tamera for sharing by example!

  3. You are always so kind, Suenet. Thank you for your uplifting words.