I was a Girl Guide once, and I LOVED going camping. Add the fact that the camps were usually around the time of my birthday which meant I got 2 celebrations, one at camp and one when I got home. They were considered to be an awesome part of my year.
Joseph got the opportunity to do a 2 night camp under canvas with Cubs and really wanted to go. I encouraged him because I knew how fantastic the opportunity would be.
Cue a trip round the M25 on a Friday afternoon, 1200 cubs heading in the same direction and an enormous backpack, which to give Joseph his due, he managed to carry all the way to the top of the hill where his pack had set up camp.
All was good. Memories flooding back of canvas tents, being squished in like sardines and the genuine excitement which comes from setting out your sleeping bag.
And then I realised something.
He had no pillow.
And all my feelings of excitement were gone in an instant. Mum guilt struck. Panic stations and trying to figure out what I could do to resolve it.
Writing about how I panicked about a pillow seems weird after the event but at the time it brought up some stuff for me.
In the moment of the ‘forgotten pillow’ realisation Joseph just turned round to me and said “it’s okay mum I’ll sleep on Kevin” (his minion teddy). He was cool with it all and just caught up in the excitement of the weekend, telling me to go when he was all set.
I went over this all the way home, would he be okay, comfortable, would he not be able to sleep?
I totally did a job on myself.
When I told my husband when I got home he told me that he didn’t even take a pillow when he went to camp and he survived!
Then I realised.
It wasn’t about the pillow.
It was about letting go.
As parents we nurture our children when we carry them and when they are born in the best way we know how. We take them through the toddler years, the tantrums, the teething and then support them to transition to school and with all the challenges this can bring.
This parenting behaviour, of thinking about them, making sure they are okay and keeping them safe becomes habitual and instinctive, as are all habits which are repeated.
Going off to childcare, then pre-school and then school are managed, structured pockets of time where we entrust our children into the care of other people, and so this can go some way to helping us with the ‘letting go’ process.
However, in order to support our children to prepare for life away from us and to become more independent and self sufficient, we need to consider opportunities where they are not so structured, so absolutely guided and given the freedom to realise their own capabilities.
So in my world this involved getting over the missing pillow, which Joseph had ‘got over’ the second after he realised he could sleep on his minion. That was his solution and he needed to do this for him.
Not a big thing I hear you say.
No, not for him, but it was for me. I want my boys to have a life where they feel they can make choices, make decisions and feel free to do this without worrying what I might think or feel about it.
Because it is not my life.
As parents we can only guide our children on their journeys, we can’t live their lives for them, if we try to do this we make it even more difficult for them to be more independent, manage on their own for short periods of time and realise that life is awesome and well worth living!
When Joseph came back he had, as predicted had an amazing time. They got the freedom to choose the activities they wanted to do with their friends. they were given choices and opportunities to experience the camp how they wanted to experience it. they weren’t ‘herded’ they were there to enjoy themselves and that was different for all of them.
So my question to you is, have you got those feelings of worry, or trepidation about something that is either upcoming for your child or something you know they would like to do but you are just not ready to let them do it yet? It’s okay, I feel it to but my message to you is, how can you support them to do it without letting your own worries overwhelm you?
With every small step you take, you are one step closer to being the best parent you can be for your children, which means giving them the opportunity to discover about the real world themselves.