The Hardest, Most Beautiful Lesson of Being a Father. ~ Ben Ralston

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 7.8
Shares 10
Hearts 0.0
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
0 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.



 “My son has a learning disability and I’m just so worried…

the school isn’t on board and it’s supposed to be a good school but I don’t know if I should put him into a less academic, more ‘caring’ school, and next week I’m taking him to see an educational psychologist for an IQ test but I’m not sure if I should and…”

This is what a client told me yesterday in session.

“… So worried… don’t know… not sure…”

What do you suppose this teaches her son?

Because real education doesn’t happen in school.

How about if instead of worrying about our kids we would just trust them. Trust in their destinies, trust their innate wisdom, their beauty and intelligence and sensitivity and simply believe that they are enough!

But the problem is that we don’t trust ourselves…

My child is a climber. Almost since he could walk he’s been climbing whatever he could get his hands and feet on. I was the same.

And watching my three-year-old boy climb a three meter wrought iron gate, or to the top of a tree, or along a wall, used to be one of the scariest things I’ve ever experienced.

When he started climbing my heart was in my mouth. I had the urge to stand beneath him with arms outstretched, waiting for him to fall.

What does that teach my son?

So I have forced myself to detach. If he falls, he falls. He probably will not hurt himself—in that amazing way that kids have to bounce back up without any serious harm.

But he’s been climbing for a year or so now—and he never fell. So the evidence would suggest that if we don’t wait for them to fall then they won’t fall.

And I realized that my urge to protect him is not, in actual fact, a natural instinct. It’s the repeating of the pattern I experienced in my childhood, from my parents, of anxiety and over-protectiveness.

My parents didn’t trust my natural abilities, so I didn’t trust myself, so I didn’t trust the world around me, so I found myself not trusting my son.

I didn’t trust myself. There’s the rub.




Self Esteem.

A couple of years ago I was in a park with my son and there was a little girl – about 4 years old – with 2 women (I guess her mother and Aunt). And these two women wouldn’t let her do anything.

“Don’t go up there, you’ll fall.

Don’t go on the floor, you’ll dirty your dress.

Don’t go on the slide, it’s wet.

It was honestly one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen. This beautiful child was in an invisible prison that followed her around wherever she went. And although she was still shining, I knew that in a year or two, her light would be dimmed.

So I choose to trust myself deeply. I choose to trust the world around me, My world. The Earth and the Sky which after all have never failed to give me everything I need, tirelessly. Food, water, shelter, air, warmth, in abundance.

This beautiful world that asks nothing of me but gives, gives, gives.

I choose to trust that as an integral part of this world—as a child of god, if you will—I am perfect. I am, in every cell of my body, and in every breath of my life, and in every aspect of my being, miraculous.

This is true Faith. It’s been a long, hard lesson to learn—it’s taken me a long time to undo the damage—and I guess there still some undoing to be done—of my childhood.

But a big piece of the learning process has come from being a Father.

Thank you, dear little climber.

Climb on.



And There Was Light (by Jacques Lusseyran) is one of my favourite books. It’s a (spiritual) autobiography of a man who was blinded at age six. But his parents refused to treat him any differently, so that he never really believed that there was anything ‘wrong’ with him. And he began to see again—not with his eyes (they were permanently damaged) but with another sense. He began to perceive light.

And he went on to become one of the leaders of the French resistance. It’s an incredible story, beautifully written.

Please feel free to share, and leave a comment—let’s have a conversation about trust! Parenting! Whatever you feel like talking about!


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!

Editor: Renée Picard

Photos: courtesy of the author

The Elephant Ecosystem

Every time you read, share, comment or heart you help an article improve its Rating—which helps Readers see important issues & writers win $$$ from Elephant. Learn more.

Views 7.8
Shares 10
Hearts 0.0
Comments 10
Editor's Pick 0.0
Total Ecosystem Rating 0.0
0 Do you love this article? Show the author your support by hearting.

You must be logged in to post a comment. Create an account.

anonymous Nov 14, 2015 12:16am

This is a great article thanks for sharing this informative information.

anonymous Sep 18, 2014 2:33am

appreciate it
cause i am going be a father soon so i thank you for all the informations you put on this artical

anonymous Aug 26, 2014 12:10pm

I guess I've always known, instinctively, this is the way I should let my almost three year old son play and learn, but have always held on and prevented him from just playing, just being (he is almost three after all). However, it wasn't until I read your article did I realise my hesitation and lack of self-trust originates from my parents, who so obviously didn't trust their own instincts. Thank you for an inspiring piece of beautiful writing.

anonymous Aug 26, 2014 11:57am

My son is also a climber. We had to get him a bed before he was even two because he was climbing out of his crib. Just keep an eye on him and make sure he stays safe. I don't sweat it. But if I think he's getting a little high, I stand below him just in case he does fall and if he gets too high, then I tell him to come down. He's a very athletic kid and very physically literate.

Contrast that with my neighbors and their kid. They're 'helicopter' parents and while the dad was actually standing over him, the kid fell and got a concussion. Meanwhile, my kid is racing around on his bike, climbing every tree he can and he's fine.

I want my kid to be independent and comfortable making decisions for himself. He's not going to be able to do that if I won't let him figure things out for himself.

    anonymous Aug 26, 2014 1:09pm

    Awesome. Yes, there's always a balance.
    Have you read The Continuum Concept? If you haven't already I suspect you'd love it.

anonymous Aug 26, 2014 10:49am

There are other things we need to protect children from, but it is generally not themselves. Life Itself is constantly pushing up against and testing limits, and then moving beyond them. That is the Inherent Intelligence in All Life, so why should it not be so in any human expression of Life?

I will still offer though, the transition from feeling "One with Everyone and Everything" of early infancy, to the later realization that we are, actually, "separate (and vulnerable) individuals" – needs wise parental support, in order to allow a child to continue to feel that they do have power in their world and in their relationships, even if it is not as "omnipotent" as they (may have?) first experienced. I still feel that is one of the most difficult transitions every human child has to make and it takes a lot of self-awareness, as you say Ben, self-trust, and Wisdom, on the part of the parent(s) to help guide a child through it.

    anonymous Aug 26, 2014 1:07pm

    Yes. That's a very interesting point – about the transition from oneness to individuality / unique Beingness.
    I suppose that the more we trust our children the more natural that process will be. They fall from the tree, and bounce, and it hurst, and they realize that the tree and their body are not, after all, the same. And some sense of individuality comes in.
    But if we stand underneath them they become afraid, and the fear, ultimately, is of separation. Then they learn to be in a STATE of fear. Not trusting themselves and the world around them. That IDEA of separation is much great than the reality of the illusion of separation.
    It sounds complex, and it is because we end up trying to explain that which is inexplicable – trying to name the Tao. Instead, I prefer to just trust 🙂

anonymous Aug 25, 2014 9:30pm

Thank you. My little ones are free to roam, jump and play in whatever way they please. This has led our family to witness the most pure form of joy on a number of occasions. Oh, happy days…forever.

Read The Best Articles of March
You voted with your hearts, comments, views, and shares.

Ben Ralston

Ben Ralston has been practising personal development—necessity being the Mother of invention—since he was about six years old. He’s been teaching and sharing what he’s learnt along the way for a couple of decades. His main thing is Heart of Tribe retreats—whose very purpose is to help you fall back in love with life, no less. Leading these retreats alongside his woman Kara-Leah Grant—also an elephant journal writer (that’s how they met!)—they combine a deep well of lineage-based yoga teaching experience, with expertise in healing trauma and various other methods of personal development. Ben also works with clients one-on-one via Skype, writes, makes videos from time to time, and is passionate about parenting.
He lives in an intentional, tribal community in the hills of Croatia, where you might find him gardening barefoot and talking to the rocks. Connect with Ben on Facebook or YouTube or check out his website for more info.