By show of hands, how many of you have had an epiphany? You know, a sudden revelation that completely rocks your world and changes your entire reality?
Now, I view an epiphany as something bigger than let’s say an Oprah “Aha Moment.” It’s even bigger than a Eureka moment, when something “clicks.” An epiphany is when you realize something monumental, and then life, as you know it, has changed.
I had an epiphany of my own. My son participates in a weekly gymnastics class. At a recent class, the instructor invited parents to come in to the gym toward the end of the class and watch the kids up close. When the parents entered, the children were to swing from a rope and fall into a pit full of foam squares. Now, my son wasn’t super duper excited to give something new a try, especially swinging from a rope and falling into a squishy abyss. There was no way he was going to jump into that foam pit.
After talking endlessly at him about how fun this activity will be, watching all the other kids do it, telling him he’s a big boy and can do anything, and practically bribing him to jump in the damn foam pit, I decided to take another approach - a desperate approach.
I decide to jump on the rope and swing into the foam pit and show him it’s not so bad to try something new. “It’s fun! I will catch you!” I said.
Now, jumping into a foam pit is really low on my list of things I want to do in life. It is right up there with licking the buttons on an elevator or waiting in the security screening line with a screaming toddler at O’Hare airport.
As I approached the rope to jump in, I see the other parents in the class looking at me in amazement, and a hint of horror. I could tell they were thinking, “Is she really going to jump in that pit?” Holding the rope I imagine the plethora of old used Band-Aids, dirty socks, and lice filled headbands children have lost in the foam block chasm.
With that visual in my head I grab the rope and swing. Seeing the foam pit below me, I release the rope and fall. It was only a matter of a second, but I could feel my arms and legs flailing, my spine arching, my head spinning, and my stomach drop.
Then I hit the foam blocks. Now, when the kids jump in, they are so small, they sit on the surface. However, I am almost 6 feet tall and do not weigh 35 pounds like a three or four year old. When I hit the foam blocks, I sunk.
Similar to jumping in a lake, when I opened my eyes, it was pitch black. I hear the instructor say, “great job Henry’s mom!”
I try and crawl up to the surface, but the more I try, the more I struggle - the deeper I go.
Then I hear the instructor tell the kids, “obstacle course time!” All the children cheered wildly with excitement. The kids and parents follow the instructor to the obstacle course and I remained trapped in the foam pit. “My son can’t possibly do the obstacle course without me there!” I thought. But sure enough, I heard the instructor say, “Lead the way Henry.” He was off... without me.
It was in that foam pit I had my epiphany. While surrounded by foam blocks and no search and rescue team in sight, I just sat still.
I realized my son was happy and having fun. He didn’t need me by his side “helicoptering” over him at gymnastics telling him what to do and how to do it. Hell, if you have seen me, I have the grace and agility of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz (pre-oil can). Really, I have no business in a gymnastics facility.
My son didn’t need me bribing him to go into the foam pit so he would be like the other kids in class. He didn’t need to see me take that leap from the rope to motivate him. As soon as he heard obstacle course from the instructor, the foam pit wasn’t even on his radar anymore.
I realized in that foam pit from hell that I don’t need to be the cruise director of my children’s lives. My kids don’t need me literally and figuratively on top of them all the time. What they need saving from is an overbearing mother (that's me).
As parents, it is hard to step back and let your child make mistakes and fail, or not even try. Watching them struggle really sucks. So what do we do, we save them.
We deliver lunches and snow boots to school when our kids forget them at home. We feel resentful and treat someone unkindly when our child isn’t invited or included in something like a play date or birthday party. We call the soccer coach and demand more playing time for our kids when they are upset they weren’t put in the game long enough. We hire expensive tutors and beg for extra credit when our kids are on the cusp of getting anything less than an A in math.
I would save my children countless times in a variety of ways so they would not have to feel disappointment, rejection, or failure. I realized constantly interjecting myself in their lives, creating a bubble of happiness, protecting them from all hardship and heartache, was doing them a huge disservice.
Life gets damn hairy. If you can’t navigate difficult times, face failure with courage, and know that although adversity feels like an eternity, it really is only temporary, life will be pretty hard when your support network is not around.
In that foam pit I learned to let go a bit and know that I have to let them fail on their own terms sometimes, step in when warranted, but always let them know I am here for them when they really need me.
I know you are all probably wondering - I did manage to drag my ass out of that foam pit. It wasn’t pretty. I think I developed a suspicious rash from the incident. However, since the infamous foam pit epiphany, I do watch my kids fail every now and then, and only step in when needed.
Now, if you have not had an epiphany in your life, not to worry. Yours will come one day. Just know that even in those horrible situations where you are facing a foam pit filled with dirty socks, lice headbands, and used Band-aids, something good can come of it.
Can’t get enough? Of course not. Here are a couple of my recently published pieces:
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Seven Words I Would Have Children S-P-E-L-L If I Were Running The National Spelling Bee, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency
Some Other Fun Blog Posts To Check Out:
What I Learned On My Summer Vacation
Shiver Me Timbers, It's A School Supply Treasure Hunt
Showing My (Lack of Skills) on America's Got Talent
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