By Self, Momma. By Self.

I remember taking my daughter, Sophie, to the neighborhood park to play. She was almost two, maybe a little younger, and she was crawling up the slide. Like a lovely mother, I stood behind her and held her waist to guide her up the ladder. On about the fifth of maybe ten steps she brushed my hands off of her side, turned, looked at me, and said, "By self, Momma. By self." She was ready to climb, to balance, and to slide alone. She did not want me holding on any more.

I come from a long line of strong, independent, and driven women (our husbands might say hard-headed). We know what we want. We are determined to get it. We do not let obstacles get in our way. We are creative. We problem solve. Therefore, Sophie's call for independence brought a smile to my face and heart. I loved sharing the story with my mother, aunt, and cousins.

Sophie is now almost thirteen and I find myself returning to her phrase, "By Self," again and again as I parent her. I find it challenging today to determine when it is appropriate for my children to climb on their own and when I need to hang on tight. I have heard parents today referred to as "helicopter parents." Maybe it is true, at least some of the time. When we run to break up an argument on the playground before the children have a chance to do it themselves, I think we are hanging on too tight. When we write their college essay or make a call to a possible employer about a job contract, I think we have forgotten that the point is for the child to learn to slide alone and enjoy the thrill of the ride down.

The competitive nature of our culture does not help. It used to be the "work place" or "ball field" where competition happened. School and home were places of learning, fun, and rest. When we use words like "perfect" or "good score" when our child brings home a test score or wins a game instead of "nice try" or "great effort," we somehow teach our children that life is about the end result of what we produce, not our character. We somehow teach them that failure is wrong, bad, to be avoided. No wonder they become anxious and stressed. We do not mean to parent in such a way. We are trying to equip our children so they will survive.

Sad though, isn't it? Teaching our children to survive life instead of enjoying the gift, the ride. We have forgotten to show them they can grab on to the railing with their OWN hands, to empower them to TRY, to learn where to place their feet, or even simply to laugh. We have forgotten the real gift of making lots of mistakes and making them often because that's really how we all, our children included, learn who we are. Our children are beautiful people, loved by God. They have a gift to offer the world. They will never discover it if they are not left to see what all they can do and to recognize who they are. "By Self" is the way to learn and grow.

We are also impacted by our inability to let go. We become exhausted well before our children are adults. We become anxious and blame ourselves when our children fall, skip a step, or fly too fast down the slide. We are embarrassed when our children break playground rules. We get frustrated when they are demanding or act entitled. We find ourselves resentful and wanting to scream, "Can't you do it by yourself?"

Well...?

I find myself grateful that I am not alone in my parenting. I have my husband, extended family, and other parents trying just like me. Some of these parents have brand new babies, other adolescents, and others still with grown children who are parents themselves. No matter what the age of our children, we are forever needing to look at when and how to help and when to let our child try "By Self."

As an Easter people, we at Holy Comforter have decided to devote part of Eastertide to conversations around what it means to parent today. We believe Holy Comforter is a safe place where families can come together to hear ideas, share stories, and connect with other parents who want to raise not an anxious child but a resilient one; therefore, two of our adult forums will cover the topic. The first will be Sunday, April 15, immediately following the 9:00 service when counselor Alice Virgil, L.C.S.W., will lead us in a discussion called, "Raising the Resilient Child in an Anxious Time." Alice, a mother herself, has been a social worker for many years and currently has a private counseling practice on the North Shore. The following Sunday, April 22, we will meet in small groups for further discussion on the topic. We hope you will join us.

Many the joy of the Risen Christ be with you, your children, your family.

Blessings, Heath