This post is sponsored by SmartyPants Vitamins. All opinions are my own.
I was born at the end of the 80’s and was a child of the 90’s and into the 00’s. Thus, it may surprise you that I grew up like many generations before mine with rules like “come home when the street lights turn on” and frequently went to parks with siblings or friends sans any parents.I remember sitting in parked cars, with the windows rolled down, waiting for my mom to finish taking care of her business at the bank or post office. I don’t ever remember riding in a car seat or booster seat, and sat in the front seat well before I was 12 years old.
I frequently biked around our hometown, by myself, to friends’ houses, to parks, to deliver the local newspaper, which I started officially at 12-years old, though I helped my older siblings when I still only 11. I even had to deliver a newspaper inside a bar. And I never wore a helmet, and never had a cell phone on me.
Which is why I have a hard time parenting in the 21st century.
There are so many “rules” today and adult supervision is always required, at every moment of every day, seemingly even within your own home. It’s hard because I yearn to give my children the freedom I had as a child.
Some of my favorite memories of finding myself, of figuring out my path in life, were in the moments I was alone, free to pray, to reflect, to cry, to laugh, to sing. Free to figure out who I was outside of school, home, friends, family, work, and church.
I believe children still need independent time away from their parents, friends, others, in order to discover who they really are.
To do that, they need to take risks.
People often told me as a teenager that I was rather mature and wise for my age. I don’t know if it was true or not, as I often felt rather naive and immature as I was a pretty silly (goofy) young woman who liked to have fun.
But, I know now that I was prepared in many ways for college, for adulthood, and for motherhood, because I was encouraged (or forced depending on the situation) to take risks.
I think some people are naturally more inclined to take risks in their life, and enjoy that thrill, while others need a bit of encouragement to do so.
Regardless, as a parent, I take it as my personal responsibility to make sure that my children take risks, that my children have guts.
Many today are afraid of the unknown to a paralyzing degree, so they never move forward, or backward, or really anywhere, in many facets of their lives – relationships, work, living situations, educational attainments, etc.
I am determined that my children will not be paralyzed by fear as adults, so I always encourage their moments of autonomy, of independence, of free play, of apparent “risks.” Of course within reason.
The fortunate thing is that children are natural risk-takers.
From their first time rolling over, crawling, and stepping, children learn to keep trying again and again at doing hard things.
They learn how to go up and down stairs, first by crawling or sliding, later by walking. They take a risk by deciding to go down a slide, of their own initiative, feet first, belly-up or belly-down, or head first.
And these moments which require guts, courage, and bravery continue on throughout their childhood as they learn to communicate with words and gain better gross motor functions and balance.
Soon they are seeing if they can flip themselves upside down over bars at the playground, conquer the monkey bars, spin themselves, ride a bike without training wheels, jump off a swing when it’s high in the air, climb trees to greater heights, jump off diving boards and swim without life jackets in the deep end without freaking out or drowning.
But, there’s also the other little things along the way that take guts, things like talking to a stranger at the store, whether child or adult, knocking on a neighbor’s door and asking a parent if their child can come out to play, asking a service worker for something you need like a napkin or ketchup when at a restaurant all by themselves.
It also takes guts for our children to admit they did something wrong and tell the truth and then to apologize. It takes courage to do the right thing and stand up for a friend who others’ are encouraging you to leave out of your game. It takes a certain level of autonomy for them to use the public restroom by themselves, and cross streets without holding an adult’s hand.
And guts are even required to try new foods, use sharp knives to help prep dinner, cook food themselves, or touch a squiggly worm or a big fat toad.
As our children continue to get older, they face more and more moments of independence, and as their mother, I constantly have to weigh the real and the perceived risks against the other benefits that come with freedom, autonomy, and taking risks.
Often it’s me who has the hard time stepping back and letting them struggle and take the risks they desire to take.
Someday, far before I am ready, their risks will continue to get riskier, where the chances that it won’t work out as well increase.
They will risk putting themselves out there as they try out for a sports team or the leading role in the school play or the solo in the band or choir. They will risk asking questions though it might make them look foolish. They will venture on overnight trips away from their parents. They will apply for first jobs, ask for someone’s phone number, drive a car, apply for scholarships, and ask someone on a date (or say yes to one!), hold someone’s hand, kiss someone, and someday, ask someone to marry them.
I am so not ready for any of those things.
Thankfully, my kids are still years away from many of those.
But, it will go fast, and I need to be ready. And so do they. I will continue to encourage them to take risks, and I will be right there with them no matter the outcome, good or bad.
I will continue to encourage them to take (smart) risks, and I will be right there with them no matter the outcome, good or bad.
Because, as a parent, one of my greatest responsibilities is to help my children flourish, find themselves, take risks, and be okay when their risks don’t pan out how they imagined.
I know I have survived various disappointment and heartache because I learned early on how to take risks, and then live with whatever consequences followed.
My hope is that I can equip my children with the knowledge that risks are sometimes totally okay to take. Even if they don’t have quite the freedom I did as a child.
My Kids Has Guts Sweepstakes
If you think you have a child that has guts, be sure to have them take a daily probiotic like SmartyPants’ Kids Probiotic Complete (which my kids enjoy taking) to ensure good gut health.
Then enter them into the My Kid Has Guts Sweepstakes being run by SmartyPants Vitamins for a chance to win a 5-day deluxe family camping adventure with Backroads.com! Camping is a great way for kids to show some guts.
Growing up takes courage. It takes guts. Sometimes a little. Sometimes a lot. SmartyPants wants to celebrate the guts it takes to be a kid, and ask parents to share tales of courage – moments of grit – acts of intestinal fortitude great and small.
You can enter by sharing an image, video, or text about your child having guts on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram using the hashtag #MyKidHasGuts and tag @SmartyHealth or tagging @SmartyPants.Vitamins on Facebook to be entered to win! Be sure to enter before April 15, 2o17! Open to US residents only.