Knowing When To Help

My friend Anne at the Belle Jar Blog gave me an article she wanted me to write about. It’s by a mother who has written a letter to other parents at the park, asking them not to help her kids on the park equipment, even if they ask. The author is trying to foster a sense of independence in her children. Anne asked me to comment on this as a nanny.

First of all, I agree with the mother. She mentions that she wants her children to tire of their own limitations, reach out and really work for what they want, not just at the park, but in life. And I agree. As a nanny, I used to be very overprotective of kids. I hate when kids fall, bump their heads, or otherwise get hurt. I hate seeing frustration when they can’t do something they want to do, or they feel like they’re never going to catch up, or be able to do what they want.

I’ve heard a lot of “Help me draw this, L!” and “Help me up here, L!” and honestly, it takes a lot for me to sit back and let them figure it out themselves. Glo-Worm is starting to be more and more independent as she becomes a toddler and leaves babyhood. Sometimes I’m overprotective of her, especially on the stairs. But if she falls, I’m right there to catch her, and she knows it, so she wants no part of me helping her. I’m okay with that. She does need to learn to do things herself – she won’t be a fearless, strong woman unless she learns who that is within her own mind. She needs to know where her limitations are, and then push them, to struggle to be better, to do more. And I think no one embodies that attitude more than Glo-Worm does lately. She is afraid to walk, but she keeps trying to stand up, she keeps holding onto my hands, and she keeps pushing her push toy. It’s inspiring to me, because I’m afraid of a lot of things.

As a writer, I’m afraid of bad criticism or comments. I’m afraid no one will notice or read me. I’m afraid in life, as someone who has been burned before, laid off, and left behind. But I take inspiration from Glo-Worm and from others – because they are afraid, but they keep trying. And that’s what this mom is trying to tell everyone else. Don’t help my kids, because they need to learn to help themselves. Instead, be a support. Stand behind them. If they turn, they should see you there, ready to provide help if needed. But they need to learn that the help is there if they NEED it – not because they EXPECT it.

It’s a great lesson, and a great blog to read on a day like today when Glo-Worm is full of a cold, tired, clingy, and definitely not in the mood to push the envelope. I hope she realizes that as long as I’m with her, I will stand behind her – because I do want to support her development and fearless spirit.

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