It’s hard on your heart to raise a child (especially when you have a big wuss heart like mine). One time, my daughter went off to school without her jacket. By the time I realized it, she was already at recess in her short-sleeves. The current temperature was 54 degrees and raining. I immediately turned into crazy-irrational-panic-mommy and went off on my husband, spouting off things like “She’ll never survive!” Just the thought of sending your little one out into the world and exposing them to all the dangers out there (even if it’s just the cold and rain for a 15 minute recess) can be enough to justify popping a Xanax. So let me share with you a little lesson on motherhood that I learned from a mountain goat.
A mother mountain goat gives birth to her kid at 9,000 feet. The kid’s first steps are taken on staggering, rocky cliffs. The kid learns everything by watching its mother. One day, our little pair comes upon a river that’s moving pretty swiftly. The kid follows its mother to the river’s edge where it watches her jump out onto a rock sticking up out of the rushing water. She proceeds to make her way across, jumping from rock to rock. The kid does his best to keep up but gets a little scared and is separated from his mom. Pay attention, here comes the lesson.
The mother watches from the other side of the river as her baby calls out to her. He’s afraid. He could use some help. Is the mommy goat on the other side flipping out? No. She waits patiently. She baas back to him, but she’s otherwise helpless, so she waits and never leaves the riverbank. The kid finally finds the courage to take a leap. He goes for it and misses. Now he’s submerged and being swept quickly downstream. If I was the mama goat I’d be coming unglued, going totally out of my mind. But she’s wiser than I; she follows him, all the while just baa-ing at him and encouraging him to keep his little head up, to keep fighting. It’s not looking good for the kid, but, after many attempts, the kid finally gets his footing and scrambles out of the water, proving that he can survive without his mother’s help.
As mothers, we are hardwired to protect and provide for our children. But, at some point, we have to let our little ones experience fear, pain, rejection, sadness and other various hardships, in order to learn to survive in this big, scary world. It starts small with their first immunizations, that dreaded tummy-time, and letting them cry it out (or, if you’re me, rocking in the fetal position in your bed with your fingers shoved deep into your ears before going and getting them after 7 1/2 minutes). Then it gets a little bigger with sending them to kindergarten, and watching them almost drown at swimming lessons. I can’t imagine the stress of sending my baby to the wolves at junior high or, heaven forbid, dropping them off at college in another state. I’m getting worked up just typing this.
The reality is that sometimes our little ones will be faced with trials. They’ll struggle and fail, but those hard times are good for teaching them to dig deeper and try harder next time. One of my favorite lines of poetry quotes “Good timber does not grow with ease: the stronger the wind, the stronger the trees.” (“Good Timber” by Douglas Malloch…look it up). If we as parents go all “helicopter love” and swoop in to rescue our child from failure or hardship, we’re also robbing them of crucial lessons taught by the best teacher: experience. There are character-building lessons to be learned at every loss, disappointment, or failed attempt. The important role we need to take is the one that the mama mountain goat modeled. We stand back, helpless but calm, baa-ing out encouraging words as our little one struggles and learns and gives their best fight. We follow them on their way, constantly supporting them, always loving them, but letting them gain the confidence that they’ll need in this big world to prove that they can survive.Read More