I might be prone to excessive examination at times.
Especially when it comes to the philosophical, or soccer, or cheese. So many moments as a dad, acting in the moment and considering the impact later, at night, when I should be writing or sleeping or at least eating graham crackers.
Who am I kidding? I’m eating graham crackers anyway.
As I vacillate between the college kid soccer girl and the high school soccer girl and the budding musician/soccer girl, happy to have spots in their worlds, I think about how I parent, vague (or subtle?) differences in what we do.
When the kid is far away or introverted or extroverted, a dad has a choice: To protect, or to shelter, his girl from what the universe tosses this way.
Vague differences between protecting and sheltering a child serve only as a cheap way into the V-day in the A to Z Challenge. #sorrynotsorry. This has been on my mind all day. And I love to talk (write) about fatherhood.
Keep safe from harm or danger.
I pushed Elise in a carriage in a mall when she was an infant, her parents new at this game. A group of teens walked our way, boisterous but harmless, for a moment. Then one pushed his buddy toward our carriage, which he nearly fell onto.
I instinctively stepped in front and planted an elbow on his bony chest.
I like to tell the story as if I’d saved Elise from a carjacking. It fell far short of that. I merely protected her, just as any father human or giraffe would. It’s the same way I’d bundle up any of the girls on frigid days, or slap on sunscreen.
Or drive without texting or speeding when she’s beside me in the Pontiac – or even if she’s not so that I can help myself be here longer for her.
It’s in the restraint I show with lackadaisical game refs who let defenders pulverize my girls on the pitch, with hands on hips and a death glare. Make the damned call, sir. It’s also why I’ll never walk onto a field if she’s ever hurt in a match.
To protect her isn’t to build a bubble around her – but to let her grow in a safe environment, which isn’t always safe.
A place giving temporary protection from bad weather or danger.
One ref in a tournament in Columbia seemed allergic to his whistle. Grace took shot after shot – not at the goal, but to her ribs, thighs, legs, and shoulders. She’d peel herself up off the grass and go again, as he hobbled on.
I considered pulling her off the field.
I saw Grace determined to play on despite the awful calls. In a moment I’m still not sure I did the right thing, I did finally send in a substitute for her after the last crushing non-foul dropped her again. Still, no whistle.
She didn’t get up, and the ref called me onto the field.
I walked close to him, teeth gritted. I’d already tossed my hat on the ground. (This is me acting out, by the way.) He met my gaze and turned away first. Grace’s teammates had already helped her up, and she scowled too.
“These refs don’t call anything,” she said, and I had to laugh a little.
She reentered the game 2 minutes later. We lost, and she got toppled a few more times. It became apparent to me that day that I could protect her all I wanted to. I couldn’t, however, justify sheltering her.
What’s the difference?
I’m glad you asked.
To protect, I’m like a spotter. I’m there if she falls. I’m there if she needs help. I’m there to clear branches out of the path or give a ref the malo ojo. (Evil eye, my white friends.) I’m looking out, as the kids say.
To shelter, I’m like bad legislation.
Sheltering looks like switching out a dead fish in the tank for an identical live one. Sheltering involves missing soccer signups the season after one kid suffers a blow to the head that knocks her cold.
If I do her homework or threaten a boy who likes her or if I ban her from eating Whoppers with cheese, I’m sheltering, sheltering, and unfairly sheltering.
It’s helping her with homework she’s supposed to finish on her own, and perhaps doing her project, start to finish. It’s tempting. You want to see your child thrive, to the extent that you’ll do anything to keep her out of the equation so she can.
Examine that excessively. Then, get out of her way.
But stay close.
The rest of the A to Z to this point:
A is for Addiction to Devices
C is for Interview with a Cat
D is for Do What I Do and Eat What I Eat
E is for Eight Things I’ve Left Behind
F is for Foods That Bring Me Comfort
H is for Halfway There
I is for Ice Cream
J is for Justification for the Blog Life
K is for 7 Women I’d Sing Karaoke With
M is for Men I Forgot to Be
N is for the New Plan
Q is for Quote Challenge
R is for Blogger Recognition
S is for Six Words
T is for Teenagers
U is for Unconventional Loves