While not to the same extreme as at home, I also had the urge to be a protector at work. Whether it be feedback, advocating for a position, or asking tough questions so we can get past barriers, I was hesitate. While in most cases I eventually did push through, it required a mental “pep talk” to get through it.
But any parent or leader will tell you that if you shelter people too much they will never reach their full potential. If you deny people certain experiences, they will miss out on the opportunity to learn and have fun. And in some cases, if you deny them the chance to make their own mistakes, not only will they have a harder time learning a lesson, but they will not gain the confidence in their own decision making — and eventually they will be faced with decisions they have to make on their own.
I was reminded of all of this this weekend on this camping trip. When we pulled into the campsite, the wonderful campsite host gave us the 411 on the location (and answered our many, many questions). The water was just tested and it was drinking-level quality. Most of the sites were reserved for the weekend. Don’t leave food out because it would attract the hormigas rojas (red ants). There was no shower, but there were working toilets. Oh yeah, and the tarantulas came out a little early this year. And with the tarantulas came the tarantula wasps. No, the tarantulas aren’t poisonous and they leave you alone. No, the tarantula wasps don’t sting humans—they fly low and if they bump into you they will just fly away.
As you read the above list, picture my anxiety barometer going up. I decided to pull into the campsite anyway, which was right next to the bathroom (with kids, this is a must!) and very near the campsite host. As we started to set-up, I took the necessary (and typical camping) precautions and reminders. Wear socks and shoes at all times. Always stick together. Always be in eye-sight of the adults. Never wander off. We are guests in nature’s home—be respectful of that.
The entire time I was giving this instructional safety speech, I was assessing and digesting all the information I knew about the campsite. I was also remembering all the different camping experiences I’ve had—we’ve camped in locations with bears. We’ve had a buck come close to our tent while in Yosemite. We’ve hiked on trails where there was a “beware of rattlesnakes” signs at the beginning (which is almost everywhere in California). This campsite didn’t have any of those things, and I’m a very experienced camper—so I decided we would try it out for one night. Afterall, we could pack up and drive out at any time and I had called the ranger before I even came to this campsite and he said they’re had never been an incident that he knew of—and he had been there for 8 years.
I resisted the urge to put up the bubble. And I’m so glad I did.
It was a wonderful experience—we connected, laughed, and got full of dirt. We made (dark chocolate) S’mores. We met two wonderful families. The kids ran around, climbed rocks, held baby lizards with their new friends, and climbed in and out of the tent more times than I can count. They made rainbow looms with one of their new friends. My oldest daughter tried to perfect her British accent. We shared an awesome experience with dear friends.
We got used to the camping bathroom—which, although it was cleaner than many other camping bathrooms I’ve seen, took courage.
And yes, we saw a three tarantulas on the second night. Now this could have been a story of how we saw the tarantula, screamed at the top of our lungs, and ran into the car. But by this time, we had adjusted to nature and I was surprised at how we all handled it. Another family spotted the first one and pointed it out to us. It moved slowly, and we of course kept our distance. But we observed it. I reminded the kids of how much they could learn through observation. We kept our eyes open the rest of the evening to see if we spotted any more—instead of being scared, it became a challenge. We realized that they weren’t as scary as we thought, as long as we were smart and respective of the fact that we were in their home.
We also saw a scene from a nature TV show right before our eyes. We saw a tarantula wasp sting a tarantula, hang out while the venom paralyzed the big, furry spider, and then drag this spider (that was bigger than the wasp) into it’s hole. Prior to my personal pep talk, all of this would have freaked me out. I would have ordered everyone back in the car and drove off. In this moment however, as I looked around at the three families observing this scene (from a proper distance) and saw all the kids learning and smiling, I paused and reflected on how happy I was that I didn’t put up the bubble. If I had, we all would have missed out on a very cool experience. Had the place been crawling with tarantulas, of course we wouldn’t have stayed. But three wasn’t a reason to leave. And because we chose to stay, we got to see something that very few people get to see.
We all had learned (or re-learned) a powerful lesson—oftentimes the fear of something is much worse than the actual experience. I also re-learned that, while we need to carefully evaluate each decision and experience we expose our kids and our teams to, putting up the bubble isn’t the answer. Shielding our kids and our teams too much can deny them not only the joy of certain experiences, but also prevents them from learning how to make decisions on their own (here’s a good article from Parenting Magazine on this).
Maybe you don’t need to spend a weekend with a camping bathroom and a tarantula to learn (or re-learn) these messages, but take a moment to reflect: are there lessons and experiences that you are holding your teams and your family back from due to your desire to over-protect or your fear?
Who knew a family vacation could be so insightful? (Well, maybe, based on my last blog post, I did expect some side-benefits from this vacation 😉