The term Fearless Parenting. The label has got me thinking.
Am I a Fearless Parent? Do I want to be?
I don’t actually think we can be fearless as we raise our kids. Fact is, there are a lot of things to be afraid of, for sure. The very first feeling I remember having when I had my first child... no, actually, when I was pregnant with my first child... was fear.
I was afraid of the chemicals in infant PJs, afraid of him breathing car exhaust, afraid he would fall out of bed, afraid he would slip out of my hands in the baby bathtub. I was afraid of SIDS, vaccines, illness, pesticides, rashes, formula. As I learned more about the developing body and the connection between the environment and chronic illness I became afraid his immune system would crap out, his brain wouldn’t develop, his growth would be stunted. I was afraid of autism.
I was afraid I would be unable to protect my child.
It came to a point where fear was driving the bus. My deepest wish was to build a protective bubble around my family and wait out the storm.
But at some point something shifted. As I grew into my mothering I learned to invite fear along for the journey. I learned that fear is an instinct; that it is our strongest protective strategy and something I would, actually, hate to live without.
Imagine if we had no fear at all.
Fear can drag you in to panic and obsession on the one hand, and into apathy, defeat and stagnation on the other. Neither extreme is all that helpful. But I think there is a comfy middle ground. A place where fear is allowed to propel us forward into action and growth but is never allowed to get into the driver’s seat.
What if we could live with confidence in the diver’s seat, strategy as the trusted co-pilot, and fear in the back seat?
When we’re new moms, of course fear is up front and centre. We haven’t a clue what we’re doing and the cards are stacked up against us! So many sick kids! So much illness! We don’t yet have strategies. We don’t yet have confidence. The driver’s seat is wide open.
What if we could lean into experience and trust and develop strategies that create confidence?
Wouldn’t we then free up some energy to enjoy life a little bit more?
I think that’s what parenting is all about. Finding those strategies, developing that confidence. Creating that space.
So, do I want to be fearless in my parenting? No. I don’t stand a chance against fear. Its always going to be a part of me. I want to use fear to help me find and swim in the upstream current towards health. And yes... with more than half of children chronically ill or at risk, with the rise of mental illness, obesity, autism and all that... being healthy does seem to be an upstream swim. The go-with-the-flow, let-the-chips-fall-as-they-may kind of approach does not seem to be yielding the results I want for my kids. Or myself.
And so I swim.
That fear that I would not be able to protect my family has given me energy and helped me define and find the key health supportive elements I want to be sure my children have in their life - clean food, play, outdoor space, beauty, attachment....
Fear has helped me simplify things and because of it I am a happier mother.
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Jess is a Registered Holistic Nutritionist™ and Family Health Expert, specializing in brain health & resilience for kids. She is the author of Raising Resilience: Take the stress out of feeding your family & love your life, a mother and an advocate for children’s health. Her book and online resources have helped families all over the world improve the lives of their children with learning differences, anxiety, ADHD, autism and mood disorders by fitting the food and feeding piece into their health puzzles. She is the 2019 recipient of the CSNNAA award for Clinical Excellence for her work helping families get healthier, and she continues to work at bringing an understanding of the power of good nutrition to the mainstream conversation about children’s mental health, learning, and overall resilience through her blog, courses and as a contributor to print and online magazines. You can reach Jess at www.jesssherman.com
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