She sent me a text:
“Dang it. I forgot my book. I know you’re not going to give it to me….”
My first thought was, ‘THANK GOD SHE USED ‘YOU’RE’ CORRECTLY‘.
And my second was, “Sister…you are correct. You are on your own on this one. I reminded you not once, not twice, but three times, to put that book in your bag.”
I make my decision to leave her on her own sound flippant, but it was anything but. You see…I remember that feeling in the pit of my stomach when I suddenly realized I had forgotten my book, my homework, my permission slip, or to study for a test….anything that meant potentially being singled out by a teacher publicly or worse, facing that teacher’s consequences. I still have dreams about it, in fact. I wake up sweating, positive I haven’t done what I am supposed to do.
I detest bearing witness to my children’s mistakes. Detest. Abhor. Loathe. I might even be allergic to it.
It feels like the opposite of what I’ve been doing since they were babies…protecting them, preventing their falls, keeping them safe. But that isn’t the truth, is it?
Part of protecting them as they grow is buried in the preparation for life. My job as their mom is to evolve with them. To expand my role as nurturer in to one that guides them in to adulthood, pushes them to be responsible, prepares them to make gigantic decisions and tiny ones and to eventually be on their own.
But damn, it is hard. Right?
I’ve never been a believer in participation awards, trophies for finishing in last place or one to take the defensive, ‘not my child’ stance. I’m here to tell you my small people are far from perfect. But perfection isn’t my goal for them.
My goal is kindness and responsibility.
Heart and hard work.
Facing fear and trying again when you fail (and fail you will).
And I know that means often teaching the lesson after the mistake is made.
When I asked about this on Facebook the other day, the overwhelming response is that this: allowing our children to fail – is one of the most difficult aspects of parenting. It is painful to watch. But it is also, my more experienced parenting friends were quick to point out, one of the most crucial.
Is it better for Delaney to forget a book, experience the fear and consequences in 6th grade? Or in 10th? Or in her first year of college because she was so used to her responsibility being my responsibility?
I don’t want to raise children who mistakenly think life is easy simply because I have made it so.
I want them to earn any good grades they are given.
I want them to make the team because they played hard, they showed up, they were willing to be coached, they were good.
I will praise them when they do a great job. Not because I feel sorry for them.
I will appreciate their effort only when it is truly present.
I will offer guidance and encouragement. I will not ‘do’ for them. Not for homework or Science Fair Projects….not for apologies or hard conversations with friends.
I will never stop being here to pick up the pieces, to offer advice, to be the comfort they need when they fail. I’ll even do my best to catch them each time they fall….but I won’t stop them from making the mistakes and learning the lessons that will shape the adults they will become.
I will always believe they are special and creative, capable of big things, but it will be up to them to make it reality.
This is new territory for me and yet I know I will have plenty of opportunity to practice (and likely fail occasionally as well) as they morph from being my small people in to teenagers and eventually adults.
A few months ago, I attended Tedx StLouis Women. My favorite talk of the day came from 27-year old Kristen Hadeed,: The Millennial Myth. It focused on her entrepreneurial path, working with and inspiring millennials and the need for more parents to let their children fail in order to grow and develop in to intelligent, hard working, functioning adults.
If you are raising children or working with Millennials, this talk is worth your time….I promise.
Despite the inner battle I suffered at the hands of the forgotten book this week, there is good news: You know who won’t be forgetting anything any time soon?
My small girl.