As a woman now, and reflecting on my years as a young girl, I’d like to believe that I had a relatively carefree, fun-filled childhood. I grew up on a plot, with the freedom to play outside (in a larger than average yard) when I liked. I had many friends, and my parents did their best to give my brothers and I the best life possible.
But the truth is, as a young girl, I went through a traumatic experience that I’d never wish upon anyone. At the tender age of 6, I was molested by a family friend.
It took a few therapy sessions to work through the experience and the trauma that followed. I had questions, I was angry and even hurt by those around me who didn’t fully understand how I was feeling or what I was going through. At one point I felt guilty and thought it was my fault.
Even well into my teenage years, it affected my way of thinking and how I conducted myself. As a young adult and well into the relationships I had with men, it was something that always factored into the interactions I had with them. At one point I remember feeling angry – and in a sense, wanted to get back at men in general. This was not a great time for me.
My point is, although I was young when this occurrence took place, it has affected me, my entire life. As a mother, you generally feel the urge to protect your children. As I am now a mother, specifically of girls, and knowing what I went through as a young girl, I know I need to protect them. However, I often feel like I may be too protective.
I am petrified that my girls will be exposed to something even remotely similar to what I went through. And whilst I know I can’t protect them from every little hardship (I mean, I do want them to learn those valuable lessons in life from experiences, good and bad), I just can’t bring myself to let go wholeheartedly.
I don’t know how to explain to my girls that I don’t want them sleeping out at their friend’s houses. I don’t know how to explain that I’ll not allow them to be “dropped off” for a friend’s party, to fetch them later, especially when most other parents do it. Whilst you may trust those you leave your children with, how do you know for sure where they are going, and who they will have interactions with when you’re not around?
At what point do we give them the freedom to go out and learn those lessons in life – hoping they will not encounter the terrible things, we as parents, have gone through? We all want what is best for our children where do you draw the line at being careful vs. overprotective? Studies have shown that being too overprotective of your children can lead to risk aversion, a dependency on us as parents, a higher risk of psychological disorders, a lack of strong coping mechanisms, and chronic anxiety. Of course, nobody wants to be the cause of any of these.
Being a parent isn’t easy, and finding that balance between caring for and nurturing your child, and causing them to become fearful of life and any experience they go through is challenging. I do believe in protecting my children. It’s important that they understand the bad of the world, but I try not to expose them to too much too quickly. I have to remind myself that they are not as emotionally mature as we always think they are, but in saying that, my children surprise me daily with the things they admit they’re exposed to, and how well they cope.
At the end of the day, I truly believe that you as a parent, know your child better than anybody else. I do what is best for my children, knowing that I always have their best interests at heart. I would never, knowingly put my children at risk, but try my best to avoid situations I’m not comfortable with. Whilst they do not always understand my reasoning behind it, I hope that when I sit them down one day and explain what I went through as a child and how I did my best to protect them, they will understand. And if they don’t, that’s okay too, because I’ll be able to live with the fact that I did everything in my power to prevent them from the trauma and years of emotional turmoil I went through, and still live through today.