As a parent, do find yourself instilling fear in your child?
As a child, did your parents instil fear in you?
This is a topic I often think about. In fact, it’s a struggle for me. I have an illogical fear of heights. I don’t like using overhead bridges, going on ferris wheels, roller coasters rides etc for instance. Generally, I hate anything that doesn’t allow my feet to be in contact with the solid ground.
I wasn’t born with the phobia, obviously. Prior to my first trip to Australia when I was 9, I was eager and excited about the rides in Dream World and Universal Studios. How cool it must be to go upside down on a high-speed rollar coaster, I thought. However, I vividly remember my dad telling me NOT to try any of those rides before the holiday. Apparently, I couldn’t and shouldn’t trust the safety bars to hold me in the roller coaster, and I could fall off and die. Coincidentally there were newspaper cuttings of such incidences in America on my study table to back up my dad’s argument.
I learnt to ice-skate from an early age. It was almost a weekly routine that my cousins and I would be skating together. Much to my parents’ dismay though. They were worried that I would get hurt on the ice or someone would knock me over and I would suffer from a concussion (and die). Somewhere along those lines. There were often news of teenagers getting injured on ice rinks because they were reckless. One of the things that could happen to me, according to my dad, was that if I fell, someone else coming from behind might skate over my fingers! If you know what skating shoes look like, you’d know how painful that could be. Whenever such news was on TV, rest assured they were brought to my attention. That was the end of my skating “career” (I was darn good, alright!).
As a young child, I loved hanging myself upside down on the monkey bars at school. I was even capable of doing flips! However I got into a mini accident one day. A friend accidentally hit me in my face while doing a flip and my front tooth fell out. That was the end of my monkey business days because my folks felt that it was too dangerous for me. They didn’t like me having blisters on my hands from grabbing the bars too.
Now that I’m a parent, I struggle internally when we visit playgrounds. I read the signs of danger EVERYWHERE. In contrast, Daniel sees the fun in all playgrounds. We’ll have conversations like this:
Me: OMG! The gaps are huge!
Dan: No, it’s fine. Kids can balance really well.
Me: Really? Even I can just fall right through.
Logically, I know I shouldn’t and wouldn’t want to instil unnecessary fear in Theodore. Yet at the same time I foresee myself sticking to him like an old chewing gum just so I can be right there should he fall. But if I’m always there to catch him, he’ll never learn to fall and pick himself up. It’s a constant struggle because where do I strike a balance?
Whenever we’re back in Singapore, Dan is quick to point out that many parents hold on to their kids at the parks and playgrounds as though they’re holding on to their dear lives. He wondered why my nieces (9 and 11 back then) weren’t allowed to go to the playground by themselves or arrange a play date with their friends. To put it simply, I told him “we just don’t do that”. Singapore kids probably have too much homework to do to arrange play dates!!!
So, how do I ensure that my child plays safely without installing fear in him? I don’t want to be threatening him or scaring him on purpose just so he doesn’t get a scratch on his knees. As much as I believe that he needs to learn to negotiate the risks he encounters in order for him to become a confident child, I am not eager to make a dash to A&E with a broken arm or leg.
One thing for sure, I do not want to use fear to manipulate and control my child. Looking at myself, I believe the fear I grew up with turned into anxiety now that I’m an adult. Parenting…I have so much to learn.