We Need to Stop Making Things Easy for our Kids

by belinda

An interesting thing happened this weekend at the life saving competition my daughter entered. The conditions were fairly nasty. There was an icy cross-shore wind. Various strong rip currents and very short breaks between sets of pounding waves. She’s a pretty strong swimmer, and she can handle herself in the ocean. There are safety officers all around monitoring them, and if they ever get close to being in danger, they get whipped out of the ocean super fast.

On this occasion she set off on her swim really well, in about 3rd place as they headed towards the buoy. But a few metres just before it, sets of waves started rolling in, and coming in hard. She got stuck. No matter how hard she tried, she just couldn’t get round that orange buoy. Eventually there were about 5 or 6 of these little heads bobbing up and down, all stuck in the same place, trying to move forward, but fighting against the currents, and not going anywhere.

By the time they eventually got round that buoy and came into shore, they were completely wiped out. Then they still had to sprint around a flag and get to the finish line. She came in 10th, getting points for her team, but she was SOBBING. She was so upset that she could hardly breathe. I held her strong little body on that finish line and hugged her so tight and felt so PROUD of her, but I also felt a lot of guilt. How could I let her go through this ordeal? This is supposed to be fun! I’m ruining the ocean for her! I felt like the worst mum in the world, and mulled over it for ages.

I then chatted to a few friends after this incident, getting their opinions on it. And I got some really interesting perspectives. Some parents were like “Hell no, that sounds terrible! Poor thing! I’m sure you won’t let her do that event again?”. But a few others said things like “Wow, that’s going to be incredibly character building for her. That must have been tough to watch, but how is she feeling about it now?”.

And how does she feel about it now? I asked her this afternoon if she’ll be doing the same surf swimming event at the next competition and she looked at me like I’d asked a stupid question.”Why would I not Mom?” She’s forgotten all about the trauma (although I most certainly have not!). She says she learned a lot of things and she knows she can do it better next time.

From a holistic view, I know that she also learned all about timing, a great life lesson if there ever was one. Sometimes you can have all the good intentions in the world, and more than enough talent, but if your timing is off, and you get caught behind a set of pounding waves (conditions beyond your control), you can fall really short. But you just have to push through on your own, because nobody else is going to save you (unless you’re really in danger, and then someone hopefully will;).

These difficult lessons are essential teachings for our kids, even though they may make us parents deeply uncomfortable. We’ve all seen the stats. Depression, anxiety and mental health issues are rising amongst the young people in our world and it’s becoming pervasive. There are so many factors at play, but as parents one of the only ones we have control over is the lessons we let our kids learn as we raise them. We have to try our hardest to refrain from making their lives too easy, because we need to raise kids who are resilient in the face of adversity, and who have the characters and skills which will make them adaptable to the massive changes in the world that we know are coming.

Obviously it all depends on your child and your family situation, as only you know what they really need. And not making things too easy for them certainly doesn’t mean being hands off parents either, and letting them suffer through bullying, or learning difficulties for example. Instead it’s about letting them make mistakes, or go through tricky situations that you know will benefit them in the long run.

So even when you feel like you want to sprint into the ocean fully clothed and rescue them from whatever hardship they’re working through, I’m trying to remind myself to take a big a breath, hold back and refrain from making their life one easy slipstream. Because if we do this, then by the time they leave our homes and our care, life is going to be extremely hard and disappointing for them. Rather let them have little hardships now, than years of despair and confusion as a young adult.

We all KNOW that we should be doing this (it’s no newsflash), but sometimes we actually need the world to give us a crystal clear signal and what happened on Sunday in those rough seas was a timely reminder for me. And I’m grateful for that.



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Simone Blanckenberg January 29, 2020 - 6:31 am

Beautifully written and a great reflection! thank you for sharing this!

belinda January 30, 2020 - 3:10 pm

Thanks so much Sim!

Greg January 29, 2020 - 11:10 am

My son did the same comp… and while he wasn’t in tears (he’s done that before), he said he was done… no long run, just wanted to go home… We hung around for a while, and he ended up doing the long run… no placings, but that’s not the point. Sometimes they need to be pushed out of their comfort zones… it won’t kill them, it’ll make them stronger!

belinda January 30, 2020 - 3:12 pm

You are so right Greg and we had a similar experience with the long run afterwards. She didn’t want to do it but we took her to the start and when she saw all her team mates, she decided to do it anyway. It certainly does make them stronger!

Beran January 29, 2020 - 11:38 am

Absolutely agree. Amazing piece thank you for sharing . Parenthood is about preparation for their lives as adults.

belinda January 30, 2020 - 3:12 pm

thanks you Beran!

alexandra Seyfert January 29, 2020 - 11:54 am

My son Christopher Seyfert did the competition. When we arrived very early, he looked at the ocean and the waves. And then looked at me. Must I do that swim. I told try your best. He just wanted to have the re-confort in my eyes. He did that swim. He arrived 10th, but even though it was difficult he was proud. He did the long run and did so well.
In these events, you learn determination, fight your fears, your anxiety but this is the best lesson you can learn. They are so lucky. I am from Cannes, Mediterranean Sea and we are not expanse to that. I wish I was. The club is amazing . I am very proud to be there every Sunday with my son.😘😘🙏

belinda January 30, 2020 - 3:13 pm

So true Alexandra! And I’m also a very proud member, for all those reasons;). See you on the beach soon x

Abby Henkel January 29, 2020 - 3:57 pm

Great read! Thank you for sharing. It’s a nipper parents life, we live and learn just like our kids do.

belinda January 30, 2020 - 3:13 pm

Thank you Abby. I sometimes think we learn even more than them!

Beryl Alexander January 30, 2020 - 12:14 pm

Nippers is so, so good for life lessons. I still remember champs in PE in 2004. My boy had been coming first in Malibu final the whole race and then just at the end another boy just caught the lucky wave and won. It’s heartbreaking for a parent to watch but it’s how life is. Your nipper posts often make me very nostalgic for those days!

belinda January 30, 2020 - 4:53 pm

Ah that is heartbreaking indeed! But those are proper life lessons. I’m glad my posts make you nostalgic…I am trying to soak up these moments:)

Caley January 30, 2020 - 1:16 pm

Friend, you are one rockstar mama!
Motherhood ain’t for sissies and watching our babies go through these very tough lessons in life can be heartbreaking and gut-wrenching but we are teaching them so much by letting them experience the tough and the difficult moments in life… And they always come out stronger!

We had the exact same situation with our SJ last year – she ran in her cross country and got a stitch and the burning throat and gave up, but then was devastated when she didn’t get a Top 10 certificate. A week later, she competed in her biathlon and when we explained what it took to earn a Top 10 certificate, she gave it her all, even when it was sore and burning and not easy. She never gave up, she ran through the tears and the pain and she came second. And was so happy afterwards!
It sucked to watch as a mama, but a part of her changed that day. And I couldn’t be a prouder mum!

Love this online space of yours x

belinda January 30, 2020 - 4:54 pm

That’s so tough for SJ but how amazing that she got to learn that! You don’t win by taking it easy, and sport certainly shows them that, from a young age. No wonder you are a proud mama! x


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