Sunday, May 21, 2017

Bubble Wrapping Our Children


Bubble Wrapping Our Children

In my childbirth classes I also cover the subject of circumcision. It’s always an entertaining discussion!
One thing I have heard over and over through the years is that boys should be circumcised so they won’t be made fun of in the locker room.
I haven’t spent an inordinate amount of time in male locker rooms.
I’m not circumcised.
But I really hate this argument. I hate it with a PURPLE PASSION.
My violet colored emotions have zero to do with circumcision or a parent’s choice to have that procedure done on their baby. I respect that choice without loving it.
The problem with the “we need to circumcise him or he will be mocked,” argument does not lie in dislike for the procedure, but in the idea that we must preemptively surgically alter our children in order for them to have a happy life.
It extends to the idea that we should "bubble wrap" our children and thus protect them from all ill.

We all want to protect our kids.

On some level, protecting our children is a parent’s duty. We need to do it.
We have them brush their teeth, thus avoiding tooth decay.
We have them wear a helmet on their bike, thus protecting them from head injury.
We make sure they buckle their seat belt or are adequately in a safe car seat, protecting them from car accidents.

Yes, parents must protect their children in a reasonable manner.

But shielding them from any hurt feelings?
From being mocked?
From being bullied?
Seriously?
When did we become a society that thought protecting them from everything was necessary or even wise?
I see my role as parent to provide adequate protection for my children. Beyond that, I feel a great responsibility to raise children who are able to withstand the difficulties of life.

I don’t want kids that never get bullied- I want kids who know how to deal with a bully.

I don’t want kids who never get made fun of- I want kids who are strong enough to know that the opinion of someone else doesn’t determine their inherent worth.
I don’t want kids who never have their feelings hurt- I want children who know their own inner strength, and know that feelings can pass and that, ultimately, they are in charge of how they feel. I want them to know that when they let someone else determine their feelings, they give up all their power and hand it to an enemy.
Let me backtrack- it would actually be really great if my kids were never bullied, mocked or hurt. It breaks my heart when they come home and tell me that someone was mean to them. I worry for them. I feel an unreasonable desire to go tell that mean 8 year old what a prick he is.
I want to fix all the wrongs and protect all the feelings!
I’m a mom, after all.

But I have to hold back.

I could protect all the ouchies and spend my days calling the parents of a-hole children and encouraging their teachers to watch my kid like a hawk so they are insulated in a safe bubble of compliments and reassurance.
I COULD do this.
I sometimes WANT to do this.
It would, however, end up pretty ugly.

This is a short game plan, not a long one.

Because at the end of this “protected from everything” road, you find a kid who has a really difficult time handling life.
Guess what? Life is hard.
It’s full of hurt feelings, disappointments, people who flip you off when you drive, (Is that just me? Maybe…) and people who just plain disagree with you.
I don’t want kids who need to be insulated from life from the outside.
I want kids who have the inner strength to ride the storms because they are strong on the INSIDE.
So I try to hold back the mama bear when they tell me about their hard day through tears. Instead I try to talk, listen, and help them find solutions. I remind them that other people don’t determine their worth. They are children of Deity. They are strong. They are precious. They are loved.
But they won’t be loved and treated well by everyone: and that’s OK.
It’s painful, but it is OK.
My plan could very well flop. They are still pretty young.

And when I’m honest with myself, really honest, I notice that the person who most needs to worry about treating my kids well is ME.

When I look around this world I see so many children are hurt more by adults than other children.
I see boys without fathers struggling to be “strong” and blink back the tears when they talk about their dad who walked off.
I see children broken from their parent’s messy divorce.
I see girls who have been taught by adults that their only value is in their body.
I see that it is usually me that hurts my kids the most and the deepest. I will be the voice in their head.
Maybe us parents should stop worrying so much about “bully prevention,” and start worrying about being better parents. Maybe we should consider that many of the kids who are bullies, are coming from a pretty sad place of pain.
And maybe we should try to grow stronger children rather than building a wall around their weakness.
Let’s bring this full circle and return to the original scenario.
"Let’s protect our kid from locker room teasing by removing their foreskin."
Who is really hurting the kid in this scenario?
Yup.

It’s not the other kids.

It’s a parent, looking for a reason to do something they want to do.
Something parents do all the time to justify behavior that hurts their kids.
We do it when we “follow our bliss” even though it hurts our families. We do it when we choose fun over our responsibilities. We do it when we choose ourselves and our wants over the needs required for a healthy child.
Yeah, when I look at the world, I’m far more worried about how adults treat children than by how other kids treat children.
Maybe us adults need to take a look in the mirror.
Oh, and those bully kids who tease people in the locker room- 20 bucks says their parents weren’t too good to them.
The REAL bully prevention starts with treating our children right in the first place.

Photo credit: crabchick via Foter.com / CC BY

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