In our home our children brought home school drawings and projects which were posted on the refrigerator and the kitchen walls. Our living room walls were filled with family pictures (predominantly the children) through the years, and even when they were "naughty" and being receiving just-punishment, they were never denied affirmations of love. As a mom I tended to be over-protective and it took a whole lot of will-power to learn to cut the apron-strings, but I wanted my children to feel and be safe from whatever forces I could control. We wanted our children to know the real world, even the ugly side, but we never wanted them to feel they would have to face it alone.
I believe that a child's home should be the place they feel safe, secure, encouraged and loved. I know that there are situations where children are cheated by abusive parents and that thought so totally angers me. I am talking about the "average" expectations of home life — the type of environment every child should be entitled to; I wish every child happiness, safety and love.
My 30-year-old just married son and I had a recent conversation about parenting. His insights, as usual, left me thinking.
We talked his definition of a Safe Haven, a term I've used to try to describe my ideal of home life. To him a Safe Haven kept a child isolated from real-world problems, the parents would shelter their offspring and in the end, not because of any ill-will, deny them the ability to make hard decisions on their own. According to my son, parents need to allow their children to fail now and then, and to learn that they are not always the best. He was vehement that Participation Trophies are horrible life lessons that served as a reward for not even trying. But he did assure me that his childhood was filled with love and encouragement and that he wasn't complaining.
Even though we might have disagreed on some definitions, we did agree on the need to encourage children to try their best and that there were times they might not succeed. It is okay to fail IF YOU TRIED and that winning was never a requirement to be loved; however competition was healthy and winners should be acknowledged and rewarded. If you support the idea of Participation Trophies for very young children, they should never replace or be substituted for winning accolades. If someone (child or adult) is part of a winning team effort, you can acknowledge all of the players, but the reward for the MVP should stand out. Truth be told, if my effort and accomplishment is greater than another person's, it is a slight to receive the same recognition — why should I even bother?
Daughter and son are married adults with spouses who help to provide support and encouragement nowadays. Our daughter has constantly reminded us that we raised her to be independent and able to make her own decisions and when necessary they work their problems and decisions out as couples.. I am comforted by how capable they both are. I look forward to the day I get to see what kind of parents my offspring will be, which of our methods will be emulated and which will be avoided.
For now, I am learning to cook for two again, to make our own plans and to admire the adults our children have become. And I am hoping that I've done a decent job as mom.