We have all watched families and friends suffer through difficult job situations, complicated relationships, shaky marriages, financial crises and scary health diagnoses, loss of their parents or spouses and other tragic situations.
When my father died from colon cancer at the age of 59, I wanted to wrap my mother in cotton wool and keep her from the pain of walking into an empty house, attending functions alone, entertaining or travelling without my Dad by her side.
We have had many health issues in our family unit of 5. We have dealt with many things from the serious - trigeminal neuralgia, brain surgery, heart surgeries and a three year old who we were told would be blind in one eye - to the normal stuff of childhood - broken and sprained collar, wrist, arm, ankle and finger bones, stitches, possible concussion and stomach viruses. I would really love to protect each member of my family from any more illness.
There have also been times when we have wanted to protect our kids' feelings; from disappointing exam results, being dropped from a sports team or not getting the part they wanted in the school play. Disappointments or disagreements with friends or plans going awry might also have lead us to protect them by not letting them take any responsibility for their part or trying to solve every squabble for them.
With many of these situations unfurling in front of me I came to the conclusion that the only way forward was to bubble wrap my family (and my friends if they wanted).
I joked about it with my friends and imagined my husband and I and our 3 boys waddling along the street, bubble wrapped.
So, I went to Amazon.com and found I could buy bubble wrap in bulk and Jacob gamely agreed to be wrapped.....( do not try this at home even with a half sane adult). I wound the stuff around him and he began to take on the look of the Michelin man.
Well he certainly looked as though he would be protected from hard knocks. He could hardly move, let alone walk, carry things or bring food to his mouth. But I am sure you would agree from the picture that he wouldn't get hurt either.
Of course this is not a satisfactory solution in any sense, but there are many situations where we want to rush to protect the ones we love, by wrapping them metaphorically in bubble wrap.
However, in wrapping them we are also preventing them from growing -moving forward in dealing with their grief, moving forward in building resilience, moving forward in developing communication and advocacy skills. This doesn't mean we let them fall off a cliff with no harness, training or support- only that we build in sensible scaffolding and then hold our breath and our worries, not stifle theirs.
We teach our children to take care of their bodies by washing their hands before eating, wearing bicycle helmets to skateboard and bike and learning to cross roads safely. But we still let them interact with other germy kids and ride out of our line of vision.
We help them develop vocabulary and appropriate lines of communication and then let them send emails or go and talk to their teachers to ask for help or a homework extension.
We help our kids build resumes but they then make inquiries about a job opening.
In spite of all these preparations, things happen. Bones get broken. Disappointments occur. Relationships fail and illnesses strike. But it is how we support our loved ones through these hard knocks that makes the difference the next time they have a challenge.
So I will be saving the bubble wrap for dress up or selling things on ebay and will continue to support my family and friends as they build their own unique bubble wrap that lets in the daily challenges of life but gives them skills to handle these knocks and move forward with confidence, agility and empathy.
Special thanks to Jacob for being a bubble wrap model.
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