Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Challenges of Parenting...

Just when you think you kinda have the parenting thing figured out, your oldest grows into a new stage and you have to start all over figuring things out. Parenting can be exhausting that way!

Yesterday I spent a couple hours at Lexi's school for some of their last day activities. I was so touched by the number of teachers who made a point to come up to me and wish us well as we prepare to move in a few weeks. They made sure I knew just how much Lexi would be missed at Fairview Elementary. Time and time again I heard compliments about her kind, caring personality and how much of a positive influence she has been on so many of her peers. I was both proud and humbled knowing that while Scott and I try to steer her in the right direction, much of her personality is simply a reflection of who SHE is. She is a friend to everyone, often taking time to befriend the student who is shy, or new in school, or to include the classmate who others would choose to leave out. She is a compassionate, nurturing soul and she often reminds us through her actions about the importance of living with a kind heart.

Her kindness, her compassion is so pure that I'm really struggling with the new stage we have seemed to enter as of late. Until now we have been fortunate to know the parents of many of her closest friends. As such birthday parties and play dates have never really caused me to pause for a second thought. But lately a boy from her class has been calling asking Lexi to come over and play and today he asked if he could help us move. (On one hand sweet. On the other...kinda strange given he's 8.) I have yet to let Lexi go over to his house because I don't know anything about his family other than their address...and it's not in a particularly nice neighborhood.

I will be the first to admit, one should NOT judge people by the neighborhood in which they live or even by the size or condition of their currently living establishment. I mean we have been judged on those things before and so I know how it feels. Often outside appearances can be deceiving. However, when it comes to my daughters I am not willing to take any unnecessary chances when it comes to their safety. It would only take a moment and one unkind person to forever negatively impact their lives. And while they are young enough that I can somewhat control where they go physically, by golly I plan to exercise that control.

But I feel as if it's getting more tricky to explain to Lexi WHY she can or cannot go over to some one's house or attend this or that birthday party. She knows that we have a general rule, for her safety, of not letting her go to any one's house whose parents we have never met. She has been very accepting of that rule in general. But it feels like it's getting harder to enforce without feeling as if we are making a decision without any real knowledge. The last thing we want to teach our children is to make a judgment about someone simply based on appearances. It seems like there is a very fine line between being cautious in the name of safety and negatively labeling someone based on superficial information.

So, seasoned parents, how have you handled this situation in your family? How have you helped your kids learn to be open to the potential good of every single human while still helping them to understand the importance of being cautious as there are bad people out there waiting to take advantage of the naive and gullible?

Your insights are much appreciated.



Anonymous said...

Hi Jenn,
Obviously I'm not a parent, but I was just brainstorming some ideas to help out and was wondering if this child could be invited to your house or to a park for some playtime. Then, maybe you could meet the parents or observe the child under your roof. Lexie gets to play. You get to be watchful. Life is good? Just a thought. :)

MS said...

Having had one very bad and scary experience with a family I didn't know (no lasting consequences to my girl, though), I am fully on the "let's invite them here to our house to play" bandwagon. They're still so small. We can be protective. And they do understand when we explain that we don't know a family well enough. It's not about judgment of a family. It's about safety. I just refused a birthday party on those grounds, and I think M was almost relieved that I said no.

s said...

My parents either chatted with the parents on the phone or met them when they came over...if the parents were unwilling to meet, then to my parents it was obvious.