Some Dads go to extreme lengths to provide safety for their children, or at least their perception of safety. Has anyone tried to bubble wrap a toddler to minimize bruising from frequent falls? How many Dads (or other nurturers) have stuffed food or drink in to a crying child’s mouth to keep them quiet during a public event like church, a concert, or a funeral? Did you let your 15 year-old drive in an empty parking lot for several months before allowing them to drive on the real road? Did you call the Dean at your kid’s college to make them aware of your child’s bed-time/allergy/social awkwardness? Did you spy on your teens to make sure your daughter’s date kept his hands to himself?
Most Dads allow their children to explore, experiment, and reach for independence. Common safety rules are not always followed but these Dads aren’t necessarily wrong. Children may become safer when they learn to fall, calmly assess the damage, pick themselves up, and move on.
My father encouraged my siblings and I to be independent using the throw-in-the-pool-and-force-you-to-swim method. This method was damaging to the mental and spiritual well-being of most of his children. I struggled with feeling safe for a long time. That unconscious nudge of fear of traversing the unknown and failing. My father had implanted the idea that failure or metaphorically drowning wan not an option. Escape into fantasy–books, movies, and lots of daydreaming–kept me from truly being safe in the real world. I was blessed with an abundance of grace to not fall into the wrong hands, sell my body, or become a heroin(e) addict (drug and super woman both harmful).
My father-in-law had a more ease-into-the-pool-and-I’ll-support-you-you-till-you-get-the-hang-of-it approach. My husband guides our offspring through their steps. They have learned integrity, strength, humility, confidence, self-worth, how to handle challenges, disappointment, and even failure. Most of all they’ve learned to be resilient. Resilience is an essential key to happiness.
Fathers who wisely instill resilience in their offspring are changing our world–one bubble wrapped kid at a time.
May you thrive in your fatherhood, resilience, and/or safety.
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