Is there a such thing as being "overprotective?"
I can honestly say that my answer to that question has changed dramatically since becoming a parent myself.
Before the birth of my daughter, I taught at a small, private school. I often viewed my students as sheltered, and worried what would happen when they went on to middle school. Some did fine, and some did not. Some needed constant pats on the back, words of encouragement and extra support, which I happily doled out. Others were content on their own, needing little or no interaction with their teacher outside of the basic teacher-student parameters. But for the most part, graduates went on to private middle schools to "help with the transition." With the territory, came "those" parents who I had deemed overprotective. They were the ones that still walked their fourth graders into the classroom each morning and met them at the door to the room each afternoon so their child wouldn't have to wait in the carpool line. I admittedly scoffed at those parents, thinking that their children would never learn to be independent if they didn't let go just a little.
Growing up, I remember arguing with my own parents and pushing boundaries. I was in my teen years and, obviously, knew everything. What teenager doesn't? I resented my mom for not letting me run free, for needing to know where I was and when I would be home. I threw the word "overprotective" at her like it was an insult.
Then, I had my own daughter. A game changer, to say the least. The second I looked at her little face, I knew I'd do everything in my power to protect her and make sure she always felt safe. My outlook on life totally changed. Suddenly, I understood "those" parents. I realized "overprotective" might as well be a synonym for "caring too much," which honestly sounds like an oxymoron if you ask me.
During the first few months of her life, I fought to keep my baby out of public until she had her shots. I avoid(ed) crowded places, stayed away from older kids who might have brought home germs from school, and ran through the waiting room at the doctor's office for her check-ups like I was being chased by the plague. I was accused of coddling her and being paranoid. Again, is caring too much a bad thing?
The day the Sandy Hook events unraveled, I sat in front of my TV with the rest of the country and cried, knowing that my children were growing up in this world. Suddenly, walking your child into the classroom didn't seem so bad. I even toyed with the idea of homeschooling, pleased with the thought of not having to ever let her out of my sight. And to think, I judged the parents who met their kids at the classroom door at the end of the day. At that point, even leaving my daughter at school for a solid eight hours seemed terrifying. My students' parents did it every day, and I had the nerve to look down on how they handled leaving their kids for an extended period of time.
Now, at six months, we have yet to leave my daughter alone with anyone except her grandparents, and even those nights were reserved for special events such as birthdays or our anniversary.
Am I overprotective? Absolutely. Do I feel bad for judging "those" parents for caring too much? You bet. My mom has repeatedly told me that you can't spoil a child by loving him/her too much. Maybe instead of calling myself overprotective, I will relish in the fact that I just love my baby too much. She will grow up feeling safe, loved and probably a bit smothered, but that doesn't seem like such a bad life to give my daughter!
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