Seven years ago we planted a young maple tree in our front garden. It was skinny and frail so we supported it with stakes and rope thinking it wouldn’t be able to resist the winter and spring winds otherwise. But a wise gardener friend told us to remove the stakes so the tree could stand on its own. She said having to resist and sway with the winds stimulates growth! The tree would thicken in girth and become more hardy and resilient.
Seven years later there is a robust and beautiful Silver Plume Maple growing in our front garden!
It is the same with us humans! Care doesn’t always translate to coddling! Sometimes making things easier handicaps a young child. We sometimes jump to the rescue prematurely – ameliorating conflict, frustration or contradiction before a young ‘sapling’ has gotten the benefit of struggling with it, working through it.
It’s one of the hardest things to do. This is not talking about ‘tough love’ or callous denial or not being a friend to your children. That’s totally the wrong signal, in spite of what the ‘experts’ say. This is talking of a rare kind of love that stems from our deepest humanity.
How will they grow compassion if we shield them from the suffering of other lives?
How will they grow deep self trust and confidence if we prevent them from testing it?
How will they grow honor in themselves if they don’t face the winds of truth, integrity and justice?
How will they grow from making mistakes if they fear punishment?
How will they grow respect, understanding and empathy if we ‘protect’ them from what is foreign (and unknown) to us?
How will they learn to self heal if they are taught to avoid pain with a pill?
How will they grow humanity in themselves if they’re not exposed to the rich difficulties, dilemmas and diversity of the greater human story?
How will they grow humility in themselves if we don’t allow them to fall?
How will they develop new ways of leadership if they are not deepened and humbled by the knocks that come with the territory?
How will they be driven to find the deeper questions if they are given the impression we adults have an answer already for everything?
We ‘protect’ our children by helping them to build inner strength and resilience by leaning into the ‘winds of resistance’. You, the parent or teacher, are not the ‘winds’, life is! The deeper love is not in facing them, but in facing the questions of life together, side by side, with them!