A couple years ago I sat in a waiting room watching a woman fold a million tiny origami stars. Maybe a million is exaggerating, but she was working on it for a long time. I asked her what it was for. She said it was her son’s homework assignment and it was due tomorrow. I don’t remember all the excuses, but her main one was “He’s never going to use this skill. I mean, if it were important I would want him to learn it, but this is not something he’ll need to know in the real world.”
I get it. I am not judging that woman, who knows what she was going through. I could tell she wasn’t proud of it herself, but her reasoning was lame. Her son may not ever craft another origami star in his life, but will he have deadlines, tedious projects, assignments that take precision and focus? He probably will and bailing him out is not going to help him.
I never thought I would be the helicopter or drill sergeant parent, but I have to tell you it does crop up. There have been a number of times I have seen my son on the play ground with kids that I had a bad feeling about and I would just go into mama bear/eagle eye/ lioness /whatever-other-strong-animal-image-you-can-think-of mode. It’s hard not to swoop in and rescue. I knew this was a tendency of mine and when reading descriptions for "the three damaging motherly stereo types" from Wild Things it was confirmed. I saw that out of The Man Hater, The Mother Hen, and The Overly Bonded Mother I related to The Mother Hen a little more than I wanted to admit. I think it’s natural and good that we want to protect our children, sometimes that what we’re here for. We have to watch out that we aren't being over involved though. Out of the three books that I’ve been referencing they all mention the dangers of both hovering and controlling, and how they ultimately teach children to operate on the basis of fear and shame.
If we want responsible kids we have to give them more responsibility. I went to a conference about this last year at my son’s school. The advice was let them do their own laundry, walk to local destinations when possible, and let them fail assignments too. I have already talked about how it’s okay formistakes to be made (especially when the price tag is low), but it bears repeating because if we can’t shield our child from the pain of failure and suffering in the world, what we can do is teach them how to cope with it now.
I’ll end with this excerpt from Wild Things “ If we don’t allow the boys we love to suffer with the disappointments of life, we undermine their manhood by sending them messages that say, “You’re weak. You can’t handle life”. Intentionally or not, by our words and our actions we communicate to our boys that they’re not capable or responsible.”
This book is written for caregivers of boys, but it applies to girls as well. I want to see my children be stretched to their fullest potential, even if it hurts to watch (gulp). Will you join me?
This is day 23 of a 31 day series. For the rest of Teachable Parenting click HERE.