Nowadays I find it painful to have a mom who’s widely perceived as unhinged- a mom my friends laugh at. But when I was young and she was all I knew, I lived inside a force field that shielded me from every danger without concealing it. She made me strong.

Candy House– Jennifer Egan

After thinking and writing about love, my next favorite topic to ponder is MOTHERHOOD. I can’t help it: being a mother is an important part of my life, and I am constantly in search of the who, how, why, and what that makes up this part of parenthood. So when I spot things about Mothers in the things that I read, I can’t help but take note.

Does shielding a child from things make them stronger?

My Mother never made me feel strong. In fact, my Mother made me feel weak. I don’t think she did this intentionally- I’m pretty sure she did not stare at me in my crib and whisper “I will do everything I can to make sure you are never confident a day in your life”. I think she thought she was doing what was best for me…

However…what do they say about best laid plans?

My Mother told me that everything was dangerous. She continually pointed out the things I did wrong. She did not praise me, because in her mind, praise made you complacent and weak( spoiler alert- never praising your child makes them weak- I know that for a fact.)

When I need to make a parenting decision I think to myself- What would my Mother do? and then I go about 140 degrees from whatever she would do to come up with my decision. I’ve been confident in my decisions about 98% of the time…

So I kinda/sorta have problems with this quote.

Being shielded protects you on one level, but opens up a big can of worms, because you don’t learn how to detect the dangers. You’ve been told what not to do, but never given the rope to see what you can/should do. You grow up without the ability to make a decision because everything appears to be a danger. For better or for worse, you learn by doing. You can’t keep your kids wrapped in a bubble…

A parent is not going to always be around to protect you.

You need to get strong by making mistakes, owning them, and then getting back up again.

That’s my take.

What do you all think about the quote, and how it pertains to actual life?

59 thoughts on “Strength

  1. I’m eyeballs deep in teenagers and with one child going into his last year of high school. It’s extremely difficult to stay positive at a time when negativity is everywhere, compounded by two years of lockdown. The kids have missed out on so much life experience which has us GenX parents almost frantic with giving them the opportunities now they didn’t have during that crucial high school time during the pandemic lockdowns.

    I see myself as the kind of parent I don’t want to be 😥 because of these complications and it is interpreted by the teens as mom (and dad) being horrible parents. Navigating positive, relative risk taking when society (here, in Canada) sees that as counter-productive has not done the teens any favours.

    So we all, parents and kids, have to step out if our comfort zones and re-write the script.

    I can guarantee you that in our circumstances, we parents make more mistakes than the teens do because they’ve been preached to for two years, here in my province, that the alternative, to go out and live life and take some measured risks, will make them sick.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. This might be a bit unpopular, but I do shield my kids from a lot of things that they don’t – absolutely – need to see/experiment firsthand. I do answer questions with honesty – no sugarcoating in my house. But I live in a place driven by conflict and war, so my answer could change if I lived somewhere else.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. In the park near the school, dealers were taping drugs to the underside of the water fountain. One day twenty armed narcotics officers, guns drawn came into the playground and then the dealers drew their weapons. My daughter was three. After that, I tried to explain in age appropriate ways about the dangers in the world

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Oh, my kids know about that. They know the difference between gunfire and fireworks too. They also understand that if they hear teargas, they come inside, and if they get affected, water is the last thing to use. I don’t hold back about security and safety. Understanding the danger and how to react is important, especially in the Middle East.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I recently read a historical fiction novel about England in wwii. One of the characters taught the kids to look at the underside of the planes as they were flying over so they could see if it was friend or foe. I’d never read that before and thought it was interesting

        Liked by 3 people

  3. I absolutely believe in honesty, letting kids figure things out and make mistakes, but at the same time I can understand a parents desire to provide a buffer for their kids. Of course anything can be overblown or taken to extremes and either way you go in those cases as a parent both are bad choices. Of course I have to note how social climate plays into decisions like this. Honestly, things I let my own kids do in the 90’s without batting an eye would probably be major stumbling blocks today… at the very least there would be major discussions.

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    1. I had lunch with one of my best friends the other day. She really micromanaged her kids lives and protected/shielded/buffered them to the nth degree.They’re 22 and 24 and she’s still doing it, but add on to that the complaining about the stupid choices/mistakes they make. I think I yelled at her five times. I understand the urge to protect your kids, but I get the reality that you can’t

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I have a different take on the quote, which may not be accurate because I don’t have the full context. But I am interpreting the “force field” not as the mother’s act of protecting the child, but as the malevolent impact of her mental illness. Children who grow up with parents who are “unhinged” either from mental illness or drug or alcohol addiction often do grow up to be very strong. It isn’t because the mentally ill parent protects or shields them–quite the opposite in fact. Children in those homes are often adults long before their time, facing circumstances that no child should have to take on. Such a childhood is a sad, scary, and difficult way to gain strength, but it can and does happen.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. That’s exactly my take on the quote too. When you are a child you are shielded from the fact that your mother is unhinged because that is all you know. Not because your mother shielded you, childhood shielded you. I can totally relate. My mother never shielded me from anything. I was her best friend whom she instilled fears, was a ‘second motherI’, was privy to all adult problems, and involved with decision making instead of being allowed to be a kid. I didn’t want that for my kids but how was I to know that’s not how it was supposed to be until later.

      As a mother, I took all of that into account and tried to shield my children from adult problems but not from life itself.

      Liked by 3 people

  5. I can always relate to the way you describe how your mother raised you. Her method of parenting is very similar to how I was raised. A lack of positive reinforcement seems to have been missing from that entire generation. So many of my friends talk about how our parents never gave us any positive reinforcement . They Never allowed their children an opportunity to learn life skills. My brother was given more opportunities than my sister and I simply because he was male. But as girls, We were told what was expected and were criticized constantly for thinking differently . Personal fears overpowered their parenting styles. Back then, My mom didn’t think about what was good for her children’s personal growth, but rather, what was good for her. My mom feared everything. She also seemed to think that her kids couldn’t (or shouldn’t) ever venture out into the world. Especially without permission or agreeing with her views on everything . High expectations from us, yet, we were never taught the skills necessary to prepare ourselves to grow up independently. We had to learn that on our own.

    Perhaps because our folks had a difficult childhood they sheltered their children from the world. But in doing so, they made it more difficult for an entire generation to independently succeed. During the late 60’s and early 70’s there was so much protesting , mainly because a generation of young people rebelled against the way we were raised. . We were sick of being held back, criticized, and so we fought for our freedom. We were also naive because we had been so sheltered.

    I disagree with the quote you posted. Shielding children from everything does NOT make them strong. It makes them insecure. But, LA you found your strength and by doing the opposite of your mother’s parenting techniques, you gave your daughter courage, independence, and the skills to survive on her own. I did the same with my children. I think our kids were luckier. We gave them many more opportunities which made them stronger. I say Bravo to us for breaking the cycle and raising strong independent thinkers!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with your interpretation of the quote. For me, sing shielded meant I thought my mother thought I was stupid and not able to understand or face things.

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  6. It’s a tricky balancing act as a parent. You can go too far in either direction. Of course you have to protect your child to some extent – the younger they are, the more so. As they age it’s about judging/expanding the limits of this protective boundaries. But too many limits/not allowing your children to explore/push those boundaries makes them less resilient. Regarding praise I agree – kids most definitely need it. But I think it’s far better to praise effort over results or natural talent. That encourages the kids to keep trying their best regardless of outcome. That in turn builds resilience.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Completely agree on praising effort. That’s really important for a child, or an adult, to hear. And agree on all the rest…we have to give them room to learn…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I agree about the balancing act, and that it could also be circumstance- and age-dependent. Sometimes kids need protecting, sometimes they need what Guillaume Apollinaire referred to as a “push”:

      “Come to the edge,” he said.
      “We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
      “Come to the edge,” he said.
      “We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
      “Come to the edge,” he said.
      And so they came.
      And he pushed them.
      And they flew.”

      Liked by 4 people

  7. I can’t remember my parents being overly protective. I do remember my mom telling me that I shouldn’t go into San Francisco because it was full of drug addicts. She said that even when hubby and I went to see a show and we were in our 50s! I’ve always tried to tell my kids that they could do/be whatever they wanted but I will also admit that I told them to be careful when going into SF – LOL

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  8. I think for the most part, our parents did what they thought would be best for us. That completely screwed us up and made therapists around the globe, wealthy. And I tried my best for my kiddos. I know tell them, when they have kids, focus on being the parent they needed. Take what we did the best for them and use it. Take what we screwed up and toss it. Hopefully their kids will turn out ok. lol

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I wonder which of you is correct. I know that we have to allow our children to do things, to make mistakes so that they can learn and become strong. I wonder also, how that author arrived at her decision. BTW I picked up thebook yesterday

    Liked by 1 person

  10. When my daughter was six, we were watching the British version of “The Office” and a scene came on where one of the actors was waving a giant dildo around.

    “Daddy, what’s that?” my precocious little girl asked.

    “It’s a rocket ship!” I declared without missing a beat. “They’re training to be astronauts, honey. Say…are you ready for that bedtime story yet?”

    Shielding is okay up to a certain age. But my ex still shields my son, who is now in his late 20s. NOT COOL.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I think the older a child gets, the less the parent can, or should try to, shield them. But that doesn’t mean abandoning them to their fates. Parents can be the “safe place” where children can talk about their problems, take a break from them, and most importantly, be encouraged to solve their problems for themselves. In other words, go from protecting to encouraging and supporting. It is important for kids to learn from their own mistakes, that is how they grow!

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  12. I think it depends on the age and what the quote means by “young”. One of the most important things for a young child is to have a sense of security and feel safe. If you don’t get that from a parent or caregiver in the early stages, it can spell trouble later in life. But yes, when you’re older your parents have to loosen the strings and let their kids make decisions good or bad, otherwise how will the child ever learn to stand on their own.

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  13. In my childhood, protection didn’t seem to be foremost in my mother’s mind. Quite the opposite, really. So it’s hard for me to assess. The quote suggests that the shield was transparent, which is better than opaque. Still, I believe the most well-adjusted kids will seek to experience and make mistakes on their own.

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  14. In the early years of raising my children, I really struggled with this–trying to protect them from the world and everything wrong about it. My own childhood was filled with dangerous/abusive patterns and relationships. So to prevent that, I went completely the opposite way and tried to shield them. In fact, I homeschooled them for a number of years and when they finally entered the public school system, I realized how shielded they had been and it WASN’T to their benefit. They struggled for a time. Thankfully, by the time they were in their teen years, I started to loosen the reigns greatly. Not in the way of letting them do whatever they wanted, but I started to release them in a way they could learn from their choices and mistakes. It wasn’t always easy, because sometimes I wanted to take control again. But now that they’re adults, I see the benefits in changing my ways and I’m glad it happened before it was too late.

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  15. I’m an outsider to motherhood, but I had a mother. My mother was overly protective, while telling me to think for myself she was also emphasizing that I must follow the rules. It was a mixed message that confused me more than supported me. A little nuance would have been appreciated…

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    1. Yes…it contradicts itself..follow the rules but think for yourself. I tried to explain to my daughter that without rules there is anarchy, but, if something doesn’t smell right, fight it in appropriate ways

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  16. I have two adult children now. One is very ADHD. The other has autism. For me, parenting has been about providing them the best I could give them so that they could 1) make it to adulthood and 2) become functioning, good citizens and relatively happy, healthy people and 3) teach them how to figure out their needs and place in this world and how to go about getting those needs met while fulfilling their obligations. Writing this feels weird and it doesn’t really give the nuance I’m going for. Let me try again. I love my kids. I’ve tried to prepare them the best I can. That preparation has included some of the same things and then other things that have been specialized for their unique needs. Protecting them while teaching them to deal with their struggles, accept their challenges and rise above those things, along with general life struggles, has been a huge part of that. Having to learn to be smarter than the average bear has also been part of that. At least through their teens, parents have to be smarter than their kids. I’ve seen and experienced a ton of sadness and bad in life (kindness and goodness, too!) and I’ve been scared about too many things. How do you prepare a child for what may come? How do you teach them to make good enough decisions so they don’t end up a tragic statistic, yet encourage them to go out and be all they can be and enjoy life? Have you ever read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn? There’s a part in there about how a child learns to accept disappointment. You don’t want that to happen too much, too soon. However, it’s important that they learn how to deal with disappointment as they grow. It’s the only way they will mature. You can substitute disappointment with difficulty, heartbreak, etc. Once they become adults, then they have to decide for themselves how to go about living and dealing with whatever kind of parenting they had. Every parent will have disappointed their kid somewhere along the way. It’s inevitable. Every child has a temperament that is part of how they perceive their world. That must be factored into parenting. Two kids with different temperaments have to be parented differently. I think sometimes people forget this. As adults, if we can, hopefully, we learn how to forgive our parents for their shortcomings and how to forgive ourselves for the same. I remember exactly when I completely, utterly understood and finally forgave my mother. I was in a therapy session that took me back to a painful place and time. I was able to look at what happened and the role I played and the role my mother played. Only this time, I was able to see it with compassion for the both of us. I was able to see how and why my mother reacted as she did then with my adult eyes and understanding now. I realized how very difficult her life was at the time. She did the best that she could. I would not have been able to do better if I’d been in her shoes. As much as I’ve blamed my mother, I realize now that her life was never easy. Of course, mine isn’t either. She prepared me for it, though. Mona

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    1. First…great comment. Second A tree is one of my favorite all time books. Third…being a parent sucks most of the time. I’ve always told my daughter that life has more downs than ups, but that doesn’t mean you don’t keep trying. Somewhere in my archives I have a post about what happened when my daughter didn’t get into the middle school she wanted (we have school choice here) and it dealt with me having to explain to my 10 year old with perfect grades why she didn’t get into a school that kids with lesser grades did get into…

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  17. I agree with you. My parents shielded us and wouldn’t let us interact with people much so we all grew up to be socially inexperienced. I have social anxiety because I never know what I’m doing wrong and I end up being ghosted a lot. I got to the point where I don’t bother to try to socialize because it never ends well.

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