My knuckles were white as I pushed my newborn daughter's stroller through the mall for the first time. I barely took my eyes off of her. I was panicked someone would grab the stroller from me and run with my child.
At night, I leaned over her cradle and checked her breathing every hour. My doctor prescribed Zoloft. It helped. But, thirteen years later, I still check my kids every night.
I know I come by this nuttiness honestly. I grew up with a dad who warned me to watch out for "slippery wet leaves" in the autumn and schooled me early in the perils of life.
I can’t fault Dad entirely. My personality has always been one of "risk aversion." Even as a child, I would stand on the shores of the beach watching my younger sisters charge through the waves. I stood guard in case the lifeguards were not watching carefully.
As a parent, I know my overprotective nature can do more harm than good. I want my girls to grow up with the ability to take on challenges with confidence (and good judgement). I want them to try new things without fear.
I happened to marry a man who is somewhat opposite me in his nature. Michael does not concern himself with whether the kids are slathered in sun tan lotion or wearing appropriate head gear when riding their bikes. We balance one another.
Our children are growing up skiing in the winter, water-skiing in the summer, and even skate-boarding (very unsafe!) The older two attend summer overnight camp.
But I am hardly ready for the new parenting style that is coming into fashion: "free-range" kids. I still do not let my thirteen year old hang out at the mall without adult supervision. She and my ten-year old can ride their bikes around the neighborhood, but they need to check in with me frequently. And even though my girls are all good swimmers, they are not allowed to go swimming without an adult around to watch.
Last week, I gave into my thirteen year old daughter's request to leave early for sleep-away camp. I saw it as great progress on my part to give her freedom to pack what she needed without my oversight. (In the past, I would hover over her making certain she had enough socks, sweatshirts and bug spray.)
At 5 am, her alarm went off and we met in the kitchen to hug goodbye. I did not cry or tell her I would miss her terribly. I wished her a great time and told her to have a blast. And then, just before she headed out the door, I handed her a ziploc bag with Tamiflu to give to the camp nurse. "Just in case."