A note from Jamie: You guys? It’s Melissa’s launch day, and her new book, Permission Granted, is GOLD! If you enjoyed Introverted Mom, you will ADORE her story-telling style. I could barely get through any chapter of it without crying (the good, “someone else also gets it?” kind of tears).
It’s the kind of book that lifts the guilt-load off a mom’s shoulders, and I loved the short, story-driven chapters–easy to fit in here and there. Order your copy today!
Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins
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As a parent, I think helping kids develop independence and confidence is important. I also think not letting kids get eaten by wolves is important.
It’s hard to tell which one to prioritize in any given situation. Parenting is complicated like that.
When my daughter Audrey was nine and my daughter Sadie was seven, they went through a serious we-want-to-go-camping phase. They had never been camping, they didn’t really know what camping involved, and I’m pretty sure they would have hiked all the way back home again on foot once they saw what campground bathrooms were like.
But someone had given Audrey a four-person pop-up tent for her birthday, and she and Sadie wanted to pitch it in the backyard so they could live in it, maybe forever? They were willing to sleep there all summer, at least.
I used to think my job was to ask myself: What would an ideal parent do in this situation? And then do that.
The fearless version of me would have said yes.
Yes, go ahead. Unfortunately, I have never met that version of me. I do not think she exists. There’s only this version, the one that is sometimes afraid. The one that—if she says yes at all—says yes when she means no, kicking open a gap between who she is inside and who she is pretending to be on the outside.
And yet there were Audrey and Sadie, with their hopeful eyes and their original song titled, “Please, Mom?” They were singing it in rounds.
But how were they supposed to grow up to be women who stand in their truth if they were watching me hide from mine?
This time, I decided to try something different. I did not ask myself what I was supposed to think and feel. I only asked what I actually did feel. My gut did not say, “Get over it.” My gut said, “COYOTES.” (After dark, they roam our neighborhood. They’re probably not looking for backyard-camper-shaped snacks, but who can say for sure?)
Facing your fears is one way to grow, but telling the truth is another. And the truth was that I was ignoring my own gut because I didn’t want to disappoint my girls.
I took a deep breath and told the truth.
“No,” I said. “No, you cannot stay in the tent all night. You can fall asleep out there if you want to, and I will bring you back inside before I go to bed. You can sleep in your sleeping bags in the house with the doors locked.”
This, they decided, was a terrible plan. No fun at all. Horrible. No one could survive this plan, it was so bad and so boring. There was no point to even owning sleeping bags if you couldn’t sleep with the coyotes!
I listened to all this. I nodded and sympathized and nodded some more, and I did not change my answer. I stirred the vegetable soup and I penciled in an early bedtime.
“No,” I said again.
“You cannot sleep outside, because if you sleep outside, I cannot sleep inside. But look, you can do other things. You can fall asleep outside. You can camp in the backyard all day long. You can pitch the tent and take down the tent and pitch it again. You can choose a nature trail, and I will take you for a hike.
You can take a walk in the rain the next time it rains. You can go to the library all by yourself sometimes, because there are no coyotes there. You can rake the leaves when they fall, and you can jump in them, which has nothing to do with building your independence but does involve a lot of mud.”
They looked at me like I did not understand the meaning of tents.
“But that is not sleeping in the tent,” they said.
“I know,” I said. “But it’s what we can do.”
Once camping was off the table, I had room to breathe.
I didn’t have to consider and reconsider and second-guess myself and tell myself all the things that were terrible about my decision.
I walked out to the front yard, put my own bare feet in the dirt, and felt the late afternoon sun on my face. A prescription of patience with where I am, kindness for myself, and vitamin D is not such a bad starting place, I decided.
My kids might have been better off with the carefree, camping-happy parents in my head, the ones who always make the right decisions, the ones who never worry and never get bored and never have work to do, but they did not get those parents. They got me.
I can’t give them those other parents, because those parents are busy taking care of their own kids in tents, and also because those parents are imaginary.
I can only give my kids the best me.
I thought that meant the me without limitations, the me that doesn’t get hung up on “questionably rational” worries, the me that operates without fears and anxieties and coyote concerns. That would also be the me that pretends to feel things I do not feel, the me who hides from her truth, the me who doesn’t trust herself because she doesn’t listen to herself.
The best me might not look like the me who chooses fun things every time. The best me might be the one who knows who she is and feels what she feels and deals with all of that first, before deciding what to do about backyard tents.
Maybe someday I will let them sleep outside. Maybe when they are bigger than the coyotes. Maybe they will grow up to be wonder women who eat coyotes for breakfast. (Though honestly, I hope not.) We can revisit the issue then.
In the meantime, patience, kindness, and vitamin D.
I don’t know if this is really allowed, but when I give myself permission to try, I feel a little braver.
Taken from Permission Granted by Melissa Camara Wilkins. Copyright © 2019 by Melissa Camara Wilkins. Used by permission of Zondervan. www.zondervan.com.
Friends, this is an excerpt from my new book, Permission Granted, and it launches TODAY!
Backyard camping might not bother you one bit (lucky you!), but no matter how you feel about tents, here’s the secret of that story: you get to listen to yourself every single day.
Every day in your homeschool, you get to choose: am I going to do what I think I’m supposed to? Or am I going to listen to my inner voice and trust what I have to say? I recommend Option B, every time.