It had been about two weeks since I’d been out of the boot cast and I was cleared to exercise again. I was headed to spin class for the first time in I don’t know how long, but I was itching to exercise and do something that would really get me sweating and working. I knew spinning was probably overkill, but I didn’t care—I’d go at my own pace. I was excited. No—I was completely stoked to be exercising again.
I went into class and it was filled with people that looked like they were on real road bikes. They had the shoes, the padded shorts, even the jerseys. They were hard core. I rolled my eyes. “Whatever, I’m just here to do my thing, no pressure,” I thought. Donning my regular old running shoes and baggy t-shirt, I hopped on a bike. The seat and handlebars weren’t quite the right height, but I didn’t adjust them just yet and I didn’t put my feet in the baskets. I wanted to see how my ankle felt, if it could handle the constant motion of cycling.
I felt the looks before I saw them. I heard the whispers before I looked up and when I did, I saw two women staring at me in alarm. I didn’t pay them much attention at first. I kept testing out my ankle. Satisfied, I got off and adjusted my seat and handle bars. That’s when she came over—the lady in the cycling gear. “You are going to kill yourself! Look at your shoes! If you don’t have cycling shoes on and you aren’t using the baskets on the pedals, you are going to break your neck!” “Umm… well…” “NO! Really! You will flip right over the handlebars as soon as you stand up!” “Well, actually…I…” “HERE, let me show you,” and she proceeded to put my actual feet in the baskets. HOLY CRAP. SHE IS TOUCHING MY FEET! My mouth dropped in disbelief and my eyes grew wide. “There!” she said, “Haven’t you ever done this before?!” I nodded and looked at her friend pleadingly, but she only offered agreement and said, “It’s not safe.” The instructor finally came over and asked me if I was OK, I briefly explained that I’d simply been testing out my ankle and just needed some space. Embarrassed, she went back to the front of the class as the women recounted to her how foolish I was being. Then it hit me – “Oh. My. God. I have just been Helicopter Parented.”
In those brief moments I learned some very important lessons about what being over-parented can do:
- Incompetence. I walked into class full of excitement, wanting to work hard, when suddenly my own judgement was questioned. I was completely aware of what I was doing and had a good reason, but no one asked me. They assumed I didn’t know. I felt like a child. Let that sink in for a minute.
- Embarrassment. Confidence is not an area in which I’m usually lacking, but having the attention of the whole class on me left me quite red faced and flustered.
- Defeat. Excitement and confidence that had filled me at the beginning of class suddenly changed to defeat. I wanted to leave. I didn’t want to try anymore because I had been intimidated by people who I now thought knew better than I did.
- Mistrust. I knew what I had been capable of from the start, but then I began to doubt my own capabilities. I was listening to my body, trying to decide if my ankle could handle it when someone else decided I couldn’t. I was so flooded with embarrassment that I began to think they were right. What if I did break my neck? What am I doing in here?
- Resentment. Because I’m a full-fledged grown up, I was able to process most of this fairly quickly and move to anger. What is wrong with these ladies?! Who do they think they are?! I’m not going to listen to them. I will do it anyway.
How many of us have had our children respond to us in any of these ways? Maybe we think they are being disrespectful. Maybe we disregard them because we think we know better, but do we really? Maybe we aren’t thinking of them as real people, new to the world, but still worthy of our respect. I challenge you to rethink this concept – the concept that children are people. I challenge you to think about what respect means to a child. I challenge you to ask yourself if a child might know what he is doing better than you do. I challenge you to first, stop and connect with your child before imposing your knowledge. Ask a few questions before jumping to conclusions. I challenge you to trust. Maybe, just maybe, children can be trusted just as much as this full-grown woman.
You may also like:
The Truth About Play – Teacher Tom
WhyWe Should Let Children Take Risks – Peaceful Parent, Confident Kids
5 Ways to Let a Little More Risk Into Your Child’s Day – Washington Post
Parent Do Overs – 7 Confidence Building Responses – Janet Lansbury
In Praise of a Dangerous, Dirty Childhood – Maggie Dent