Monday, October 15, 2012

Protecting Your Loved Ones From The Hard Knocks Of Life

If you feel, like me, that your family and/or friends have had more than their fair share of traumatic experiences, you may be looking for ways to protect them.

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).

Literally!

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.

Gilly

Special thanks to Jacob for being a bubble wrap model.

 Please email me at gilly@bringingbooksofcomfort.org or leave a comment on this post below. I'd love to have your feedback. 

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14 comments:

  1. And I thought Jacob was modelling a new halloween/purim outfit!
    x

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  2. Well, the outfit can always double up.....and then I know he won't get hurt either!
    Gilly

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  3. That can be a really hard balance especially when their has been trauma. I know I am a bit of a helicopter parent with my kids, but I was raised with little supervision, and was lucky to have survived. I make that same joke btw. Last two time my boys needed stitches I was training the same group of managers. I kid that next time they come in town I'm bubble wrapping the boys :-)

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    1. Corey -I agree it is definitely a balance when raising kids, particularly when they get hurt or are sick. A lot of research shows that raising resilient kids is the best gift parents can give their children, but kids need to be taught and role modeled the tools and supported through experiences, rather than protected from them in order to learn how to be resilient. There's a great book that explores these issues, written by a Jewish psychologist, Wendy Mogel called The Blessing Of a Skinned Knee. I think you'd find it very interesting. You can find it on Amazon at
      http://www.amazon.com/Blessing-Skinned-Knee-Teachings-Self-Reliant/dp/1416593063/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1350338266&sr=1-1&keywords=the+blessing+of+a+skinned+knee

      Let me know what you think!
      Gilly

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  4. Gilly, I love this post.
    Liz x

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  5. Thanks for the humorous reminder that it's better to let our 'bubble wrapping' endeavors consist of helping our children develop coping skills and learning how to do things on their own! After all, if we want them to leave the nest, we have to teach them how to fly (unless we want them living with us when they're 30!).

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    1. Anita -You are welcome. Yes, bubble wrapping your kids only comes back to haunt you later or as you say has your kids still living you when they're 30. My goal is that they are excited and ready to leave,but love to back and visit often. Thanks very much for visiting brainstorm and leaving a comment.
      Gilly

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  6. Love this! Your kid looks like great fun and a good lesson learned :)

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  7. Thanks Jools! Jacob was a very good sport! The visual of seeing him unable to actually do anything for himself was very powerful. We laughed a lot too. Yes it was a good message for both of us. Thanks for dropping by.
    Gilly

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  8. I seriously love your ability to guide us through your blog posts like a story and then to use normal every day things in to demonstrate an analogy to help us see something and gain something more profound out of our most questioned and painful moments in life. You are a genius! I, too, wish I could bubble wrap my loved ones. Now that I have this 16 month old boy, I seriously wish I could bubble wrap him especially since he climbs on everything and has absolutely no fear whatsoever. :) Thanks for linking up again with us on the Mommy Monday Hop! Your posts are so delightful

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    1. Thank you Brittnei for your very generous feedback.
      Yes little boys are fearless when it comes to getting into things they shouldn't! My 3 climbed on everything when they were small. I have plenty of bubble wrap to spare if you need any.... !! :-)
      It's a pleasure to link up and be apart of this great blog hop and a wonderful bonus to get to know you in the process.
      Gilly

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