Fear and Parenting
Life revolves around fear. An individual’s relationship to fear determines a great deal of his/her relationship to the world. The way we conceive of the world directly influences the way we perceive the world—and a dysfunctional relationship to fear messes with our conception of the world in a big way. And the way we project our fear onto the children we raise has an outsized influence on who they will become.
My personal relationship to fear has been pretty positive. I am a third and final child arriving five years after my brother and sister who were five and seven years older than me. My parents were relatively relaxed, relative being key, by the time I came around and I was given quite a long leash that I chewed through at a young age. As a result failure has always been my friend – along with a willingness to try anything that has spurred a life full of ups and downs with some successes but way more failures all finished with a smile on my face.
When I had children I was immediately confronted with a challenge to one of my favorite spiritual ambitions— practicing what I preach. “Careful” is the secret password into the great cabal that is parenthood, and I am no fan of careful. Yet when I am sitting in the Vanderbilt playground in Prospect Park near where we live I always have to deal with the rope orb thing that is featured smack in the middle the play structures.
Not to be too graphic but if I happen to look up while my Son or Daughter are at the top of the play structure in the picture, my testicles rise up into my stomach and I want to vomit and say “careful”. The first time my son was at the top and I looked up I got terrified and coaxed him to caution and descent. I regretted it immediately. So I stopped looking.
My children are tearing it up at the playground, running, jumping and falling with abandon and if the best I have to offer is “careful” I am better off not being involved. Why should my child be forced to feel my fear? How can I let him develop his own relationship to the emotion that can largely determine the course of his future?
These questions and more run through my head as I watch my young children become people in their own right. I know deep down I have to stay out of their way and let them become who they are from their own impetus but it is so hard when you have to balance a natural reaction to provide safety.