Is Fear Holding You Back? Use Your Secret Weapon!

diving board pool

It was just another day at the local pool. I looked up from watching my toddlers splash around the kiddie pool to check on my 4-year-old, but he was nowhere to be seen.

I glanced around the complex. Nothing. I stood up and looked hard at the bottom of the pool he’d been splashing in a moment before. Nothing.

Would you risk your life for your kids?

I bet in the moment, you wouldn’t take time to think about it.

You’d act.

My pulse quickened as I looked at the bottom of each pool.

Then I found him in the bathroom.

I didn’t have to use my superpowers that day, but I knew I would have done anything to save my son.

Your secret weapon against fear.

I’m sure we’ve all had an experience like this where we get a taste of how powerful a parent’s love is.

The day we become parents we have more to be afraid about, but we also get a weapon to fight fear like none other.

What gives parents superpowers when they realize their children are in danger?

Love does. But there’s a catch:

We rarely are triggered to use our great power of love for fear-defying action.

Why? Because life-threatening situations are rare.

Most of our fears are unfounded. I have a recurring fear that while walking down a busy road I will accidentally steer the stroller into oncoming traffic.

These improbable threats aren’t real, so they don’t trigger the amazing power of our fear-conquering love.

The real threats to our children’s well-being are so subtle we overlook them every day.

Take fear itself. Are we teaching our children to be fearful when we’re afraid to make mistakes or try something new?

I don’t want my kids to learn fear from me. I want them to learn overcoming fear from me.

The only way to teach facing fears is to face our own fears while our children are watching.

As a parent, you have a powerful fear-conquering love within you.

What if you could harness the power of parental love to face your everyday fears?

I’m afraid of driving. We bought a car six months ago and I still haven’t gone anywhere alone with the kids besides the local library.

Every time we get in the car the kids say, “Don’t drive, Mommy. We want Daddy to drive.”

Despite it all, I try to drive once a week. My husband doesn’t understand my fear of driving, but he understands I need help and encouragement to overcome my fear.

He tells the kids that Mommy has to practice if she is going to get better at driving.

He tells the kids to be proud of their Mommy for facing her fears.

I don’t feel heroic getting behind the wheel with my kids in the car – I could kill us all with a single hand-jerk!

I don’t feel powerful, but I know I’m teaching them (and myself!) a powerful lesson:

Fear doesn’t have to stop us. We can overcome our fears.

I’m afraid of plenty more than driving.

I’m afraid of failure. I’m afraid of spiders and phone calls. I’m afraid of looking like a fool. I’m afraid something will happen to my kids.

I’m even afraid I don’t love my kids enough to risk my life for them.

I’m afraid my kids are learning fear from me.

Our children are watching and learning from our example.

I don’t always have the strength to face my fears for my own sake. Yet when I do it for my kids I gain a victory for myself.

The more I practice for the sake of my kids, the more I learn deep down inside me that it’s possible to conquer fear.

How to teach your kids to face their fears.

We don’t have to fight all our fears at once to teach our kids to be fear fighters.

Progress in one fear is enough to show them that fear doesn’t have to have the last word.

Think back to a time when you did something courageous for the sake of your kids. You made a tough phone call, or you stood up to an authority, or you stayed calm when you saw the dead mouse.

Now think of an area where your kids might be learning fear from you. Can you use the power of your deep love for your child to practice facing your fear?

Next week I’ll share my favorite tricks for facing fear.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Cost of Creativity: 9 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Want Creative Kids

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Fostering creativity in children seems to be all the rage these days.

I’m not buying all the hype.

Here are nine reasons why I don’t want my kids to be creative:

  1. It’s messy. The other day my three-year-old pulled out the plastic decorative grass between my sushi, said “It’s a crown!” and proceeded to put it on the 1-month-old’s head. Yes, raw fish on the baby’s head is the result of young creativity.
  2. It’s risky. Creativity knows no bounds, you never know where you’ll end up. First they paint on the paper you give them, then they find your stack of bills and paint on that, then they paint the walls and driveway . . .
  3. It’s dangerous. Creative kids tinker. They have no fear. Put “tinker” and “electricity” in the same sentence and you’ll understand why I don’t want creative kids.
  4. It’s expensive. The trouble with real art supplies is that they are expensive and kids keep coming back for more, which results in a feedback loop of creativity followed by the need for buying more art supplies. Fortunately there is an easy and cheap solution to this. Buy cheap art supplies. Kids get so frustrated with them not working properly and breaking that they give up creating. Poor art supplies are not only cheap, they last the whole childhood! Double win.
  5. It’s time consuming. It takes an hour to walk half a block with creative kids. They somehow see infinite potential in a pile of stones. Each one is unique, so no stone can be left unturned.
  6. It’s uncertain. The creative path isn’t charted and there’s no instruction manual. I don’t know where we’re going or how to get there but I am still held responsible should anything bad happen to my kids!
  7. It’s maddening. Creative kids think of creative ways to obey the letter of the law while flouting its spirit. As in, “I didn’t throw the truck, I just dropped it off the table!”
  8. It’s heartbreaking. Creative kids fail. They try out many ideas and most of them fail. As a parent, I hate watching my kids fail. I’d rather do things for them and save them the agony, though strangely enough they don’t seem to mind failing as much as I do.
  9. It’s humbling. My kids might show me up and have a more successful life than I do.

So before you jump on the “creative kids” bandwagon, be sure you count the cost!

Have a reason I missed? Please share!

Support for Parents on the Road Less Traveled

woman on path

I recently spent an hour in a room of other mothers while the dads looked after our kids. We shared our trials and triumphs and I came away revived.

We were a diverse bunch. Some worked outside the home and some were at home full-time. Some lived in large homes, and some chose small living. Some sent their kids to private school, others believed in public education, and some homeschooled. The list of differences could go on.

I wondered why it was so encouraging to be with these women when each of our lives looked so very different.

My husband put it this way: “It’s encouraging to be with other fathers who think deeply about family life.”

One Passion. Different Paths.

Each woman thought deeply about her role in shaping her family and the passion and care for family life was palpable, even though many of us were overwhelmed.

Each took her choices seriously, but none pushed her solutions on others. We were there to share and support.

Personalized Solutions

I’m proud of how I organize kids’ clothes, mostly because it used to be a disaster that resulted in half-day sorting sessions that left me exhausted and low on patience.

Now each of the kids has one drawer for clothes and one hook by the door for jackets. The clothes that aren’t in current use are organized by type in drawers in our bedroom. When a child outgrows a pair of pants I return it to the pant drawer and pull out the next-larger pair.

I’m proud of my system for kids’ clothes, but I’m aware that it’s not universally applicable.

I know a mother who receives lots of clothes from relatives. She uses the new clothes for a while then passes them on to a good home.

My minimalistic clothing solution would be unnecessarily stressful to her, as she would have to decide how to pare down and risk offending relatives by asking them not to buy so many clothes.

We all have to organize kid clothes, but each of our situations calls for a different solution.

That seems obvious, but how often have you felt guilty that you don’t do something the way another mother does because it works so elegantly for her?

How often have others pushed their solutions on you, when you knew it wouldn’t be right for your family?

Advice is usually well-meant, but often it undermines rather than supports our work as mothers.

We All Need Support

At our mommy-meeting a normally confident and care-free mother was shaken by an experience where a friend had pushed a particular solution hard on her. She polled the other mothers to see if she was alone in her conviction. Each mother had a different take on the topic, but all agreed she shouldn’t feel guilty about sticking with what works for her family.

At Blue Ocean Families I want to strike the balance of sharing specific solutions that might be helpful while at the same time emphasizing that no solution fits everyone.

Each family is the best judge of what works for them.

My hope for this blog is that it is a place where parents can share their solutions and thoughts while respecting the fact that the solutions and thoughts of others will be vastly different.

Even confident mothers can be shaken when they take the road less traveled.

Here we can encourage each other to be strong in our family journeys and be inspired by the variety of solutions!

Can We Trust the Path of Learning That Our Kids Choose?

tricycle

My son loved numbers from an early age and I enjoyed watching him learn on his own terms. He painstakingly taught himself how to write the numerals on his blackboard, but he struggled with the number “5.”

I decided to step in and give him a short and cheerful tip about what was tripping him up.

He stopped writing numbers for a week.

When my daughter became interested in writing I knew better than to intervene. She once asked me to help her write her name. I tried to hold my tongue, but I couldn’t help giving her tips as we worked together.

Lo and behold, she responded well to my tips, did a great job writing, and was so proud of herself!

Every child learns differently and needs different support along the way.

That’s easy to say when we’re looking back and things have turned out well. It’s quite another story when the future is uncertain.

This morning I watched my two-year-old coast around on his pedal-less bike, my three-year-old struggle with her real bike, and my five-year-old zip around like a pro.

Seeing the stages of learning to ride a bike side-by-side made it strikingly clear how short each phase is.

The same daughter who likes writing lessons has resisted all help in learning to ride a bike. It’s taken all my strength to hold back and let her do it her way. I had hoped she’d learn to pedal this summer, but fall is at our doorstep and she’s still only sitting on the bike and pushing with her feet along the ground.

Suddenly I notice she has one foot on a pedal. The other is suspended in the air and touches down only occasionally. She quickly improves her technique and can soon bike one-footed the whole length of the lot, never once touching down with her left foot.

Amazing! “Surely biking with one foot is harder than with two,” I think to myself. “All she needs is a little encouragement to put her left foot on the pedal and she’ll discover it’s even easier!

“I’m right,” I assure myself. “But I don’t have to say so.” I congratulate her on her one-foot biking skills and with great self-control manage to leave it at that.

Why is it so hard to trust that she’ll find the way? I know from watching my first child that the learning time is over and gone so quickly. What’s the rush?

Each time a child learns something on his own, it is a personal victory. Why diminish that victory by intervening too much?

The time spent waiting for our kids to learn the next skill feels long because the future is uncertain. It’s not that I want to rush through the process, but the discomfort of uncertainty compels me to take charge.

There may be times when we need to insist on our way, but I’m starting to suspect that our kids need our intervention far less than we think.

Can we trust the path of learning that our kids choose?

We might not be able to answer the question once and for all, but we can challenge ourselves to have more respect for our children’s way of learning and have more humility in sharing our superior skills.

We can hold back a little longer before we jump in with our own ideas. We can respond positively when we’re asked for help, rather than insisting a child do something on his own that he doesn’t feel ready for.

We can stay in the suspense of uncertainty a little longer and keenly observe the situation before we act. Experience will teach us if we can trust how our kids learn.

After an hour of one-footed biking, the grandparents arrived and my daughter wanted to show off her new skill for them.

Scarcely had her grandfather noticed her unusual style when she put her other foot on the other pedal . . .

And she rode that bike.