I pinned this photo of a painting on my Parents board on Pinterest yesterday. A mother, with the best of intentions, is laying out a guide for her daughter to follow. The daughter dutifully walks the line. Both of them think they are doing the right thing. As parents we try to encourage our children or lead their thoughts and this is commendable. We want our children to be confident so we parent them as best we can.
My childhood was split over continents and countries and schools and at one point for over a year, my mother and two brothers lived in the UK, my sister and I were at boarding school in Malaysia and my father lived in Thailand. I wanted something more stable for my daughter, something more regular.
Obviously, I think stability is a good thing but my daughter does get homesick easily and is quite uneasy about the thought of travel. There have been several anxious moments about an upcoming trip to France with the school when she will be away from home for several days.
This picture has me wondering to what extent the guidelines we lay down as parents actually become tightropes. By emphasising stability and habit, have I denied my daughter a sense of adventure or made her too risk averse? Have the guidelines I thought would give her confidence become something she is afraid to do without? Guidelines seem like a good thing because they provide direction and boundaries. Tightropes are difficult to master and the results of a mistake are catastrophic. When a guideline becomes a tightrope it’s time for change.
Picture by Alessandro Gottardo