The lure of the quick fix can be tempting for parents. Whenever I feel myself sliding down that slippery slope, I remember the time my parents definitely did not take the easy way out -- the day I met my childhood best friend, Polli.
We were about as different as two 6-year-olds could be. Shy Polli, with her blonde pixie cut, was as much of a beach and country girl as I was an extroverted city slicker. I was all about my shiny plastic boat; Polli was enamored with the scampering crabs along the shoreline. Her first words to me were, ''You're not afraid of crabs, are you?'' as she flicked several of the creatures into my boat. I was horrified and couldn't get home to my parents fast enough -- home to where I would find comfort, love, and vindication! Yes, I was convinced they would surely put this little hellion in her place. How they handled it, though, turned out to be one of the greatest lessons of my childhood and a template I would use many times with my own daughter.
Some may take issue with what my dad did. They may say his words were not conducive to building my budding self esteem. While I initially was stunned by my dad's response, I believe it was just the medicine my hyper-sensitive, princess-in-training soul needed.
''No daughter of mine is going to be afraid of some little crabs.''
What?! No ''Poor baby!''? No blaming that wretched tomboy? Instead, my dad presented me with a bucket of the feared crustaceans. ''Watch this!'' he said, as he plunged his bare arm into the saltwater. Soon his arm was covered with the creepy crawlers, as he enthusiastically talked to them. ''Hey, guys. Where do you think you're going?'' He then invited me to try it. Reluctantly I put my arm in the bucket, and soon I was laughing at these interesting looking creatures tickling my arm. He then strongly encouraged me to return for Round II with Blondie. So with the confidence of a maritime sailor, I rejoined the girl who would become my lifetime friend.
I've often wondered what the outcome might have been had my dad not encouraged me to work this conflict out on my own. Might I have missed the friendship of a lifetime? Might I have one day found myself living the life of an entitled, yet helpless, woman and wonder why I was so depressed? Parenting is such a balancing act of knowing when to provide comfort and when to seize the ''teachable moment.'' The greatest gift we can give our children is a lot of both.