Massive winds bend the thick trunks of scrub oak trees until it seems the roots will soon rip out of the ground. Birds fly against the wind, working extra hard to move from branch to branch, and the heat would be overbearing if not for the winds.
I love nature, I love lightning, thunder and storms, even high winds … up to a point, until it becomes unsafe. In fact, I once rode out a hurricane in my car, stuck bumper-to-bumper in Central Florida as me and millions of others were trying to escape to safety up North. No cars flipped, but they were all rocking back and forth, bounding on their tires. It was more intense than any Six Flags ride and lasted for a few hours. Other than cowering in a basement corner waiting for an oncoming tornado, I think that is the most frightened I’ve ever been.
Looking back on childhood, I’m grateful for experiences that made my brothers and I stronger. I’m grateful my parents let us struggle and did not solve every problem for us.
As a parent, my temptation has been to tell my kids what to do at every turn, trying to keep them from pain. But pain is healthy, and we should save our controlling nature for those times when their lives or safety are actually at risk. Otherwise, skinned knees and wounded hearts are part of growing up.
Our job as parents isn’t to clear the path for our kids but to get the kids ready for the path. Letting go is probably more important than control.
Go Ahead and Sleep Late
I want my kids to learn to be independent. For instance, one of my sons has a full-time job, and, like many, has not learned to manage his time. Plus he loves to stay up late, sometimes till the wee hours. Knowing he has to be at work at 6 a.m., I could call him and suggest he come home. And in the morning, I could go upstairs and wake him. But unless he experiences the pain of an unhappy boss because he is late or misses work, he won’t learn. So, in spite of my temptation to help make things smoother, I let him fail.
Do Your Own Laundry!
When I was a kid, my mom did our laundry and cooked our food, but she made me cook every week or two, choosing the menu for the family. We had lots of fried bologna and mashed potatoes. But at least I could survive if I had to (which came in handy once I left home.)
Laurie made our kids start doing their own laundry at about 7 years old. My daughter told me many kids come to college having never done their own laundry. She’s been doing it for more than half her life.
My natural instinct is to answer questions, step in and control situations, and blather on about lessons that need to be learned. But I have to fight my instincts.
What about you?
How were you raised?
Did your parents allow you to make mistakes, or did they control every outcome?
When my boys were in Cub Scouts I read a book called The Dangerous Book for Boys, which emphasized the importance of danger and adventure. Too many of us won’t let kids climb trees because we fear broken arms, but the book says that we need a sense of danger, we need to do things to help us build our confidence. (My daughter was as much about danger as my boys.) So while other moms and dads were preventing danger at the park, I was encouraging it. Though it was against my instinct, it’s important.
We’re not perfect. We paved too many paths and spoiled our kids in some ways. Thankfully, we didn’t try to control every moment. As a result we have confident, independent kids (sometimes too independent).
Are you paving a path or letting them make their own path?
The most important lesson for me as a parent is to let go.
Step in only when it’s a matter of life or death. If they screw up and get arrested, I won’t bail them out. They need to learn. If we solve every problem, they’ll be looking to our solutions into adulthood.
PS: Winds are pushing wildfires in New Mexico, which has discouraged a few people from attending our Plein Air Convention, which starts on Tuesday the 17th. Thankfully, I’m told that things are fairly clear in Santa Fe and our group is in no danger. If we do get an especially smoky day, we’ll simply paint together inside if we can’t go outside (unlikely). I’m bringing my entire family (triplets and their mom) to the convention this week to work. I hope you’ll come, or at least watch online.
This September it will be springtime in New Zealand (sounds like the name of a movie). I’m taking a group of 50 to the most amazing scenery on earth for painting. (Some come and don’t paint, they just tour or take photos.) I have a few seats left. www.paintingnewzealand.com
This June I’ll be painting with about a hundred friends at my 11th Publisher’s Invitational artists’ retreat in the Adirondacks. We’re going to some of the EXACT spots painted by the Hudson River School painters. In fact, we’re staying and painting in the exact location frequented by Winslow Homer. One price includes room and meals (yep, a week where you don’t have to cook or clean!!). www.paintadirondacks.com
Love this piece. I wish I realized this about parenting earlier! I might have made life too easy for my kids. The older one is off to college this fall and I wish him luck learning from failures ahead!
Thank you, Eric. You always provide great food for thought. Have a great time at PACE and Hello to Laurie and the triplets.
EXCELLENT!!! SIMPLY EXCELLENT!!!
I have been enjoying your posts. I watched the recent plein aire sunset (starting with silhouette) video yesterday and it was wonderful. I enjoy your writing and today’s post about experiencing life is terrific. My parents always kept telling me to “be careful,” especially my mother. She worried all the time and this underlying current was not constructive. I finally shook off the yoke, mostly, but it took many years. I admire the way you are an adventure seeker and you have so many things going on simultaneously. In recent years I have pared down my music and writing aspirations to concentrate on my fine art, but the writing will always be with me and once in a while I submit. I need to go to the next level wilth my art as I feel I am one of those who is ready to jump into the pool of showing and some form of marketing. Thanks for your wonderful videos and advice to artists and creatives and entrepreneurs.www.louiseherman.com
No sign of smoke from Buffalo Thunder this beautiful clear sunny morning.
Some of the PACE attendees have already arrived. See you soon.
Thank you for this post today. I’m a grandmother of2 teenage boys that I adopted I struggle between the role of grandmother and mother . your pos.t help me remember Its even more important to teach these boys independent.
I’m sitting here watching a stom.begun to roll inn.
Loved Two Paths to Choose!
I don’t know if this is a generational issue or not. I am 80 and growing up my parents tried to give me as much rope as possible. Experience is the best teacher my father said. My mother taught me to cook, wash and iron clothes, darn socks and sew on buttons. She said often that I should not be a millstone around some woman’s neck. I am grateful to them every day.
I also have three sons and was fortunate enough to raise them outside of suburbia and cities so I could say to them; pack yourself a lunch and go exploring in the woods and they would come home with all sorts of critters, and interesting finds in their pockets. I would go out with them on occasion to pick wild blackberries or hunt down wild asparagus or gather hickory nuts and they learned some basic use of wild medicinals like a bit of chewed up plantain leaves over a bee sting. If they wanted to have a soda, they had to use their allowance and ride their bikes to town – five miles each way. I figured they were burning off those useless calories that way. But I got in trouble for letting them do it. Apparently, it’s child abuse or neglect these days to let your children learn to be independent. They were 12, 13 and 15 at the time. I was being paid to babysit my neighbor’s infant when I was 12. I had helped my mother with my five younger siblings so I knew how to change diapers, how to hold a baby properly and how to feed them and burp them. I also knew how to call for help if there was an emergency. Today our children are overly coddled. They don’t have chores (mine had fewer chores then I did, but they still earned their allowances by cleaning their rooms, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, cleaning the bathroom, helping me in the garden, cleaning out the chicken coop and washing the car and cleaning out the inside of the car. They were paid extra for jobs like helping me butcher a deer, plucking and processing a chicken and processing and canning food. If they came and actually helped me at the farmer’s market, I paid them. If they wandered off to hang out with their friends they were not paid. They did not earn money for good grades like some of their friends; but we took them out to dinner in a restaurant when they graduated. My boys are adults now with families of their own. They are all working. Only one chose to attend college but did not finish because of the cost. They all seem happy and well adjusted and I do not regret their upbringing.
Just want to let you know that I purchased Susan Blackwood’s watercolor class using MAPS System. I am retired and into my 7th year of “learning “ to paint with watercolors, Susan’s class is the best class I’ve had. Susan is not only a beautiful painter but also an EXCELLENT teacher. As you know, just because someone is good at something, it doesn’t mean they can teach. I was so impressed with Susan and her art and her teaching. I am grateful that you brought her to us and grateful for her. Please share this Thank You with her if you can.
Our job as a parent is to work ourselves out of a job.