I had coffee this morning with someone who asked me a question I have asked myself a lot lately. How do moms do it? How do we shape, herd, redirect, guide, steer our children to become independent responsible adults and not have our hearts broken every day? Maybe that question has a different answer for everyone, or maybe the answer is bluntly: we don’t. I know it sometimes feels like my heart gets broken every day. What fun is it to be the bad guy all the time? To be the “fun sucker” as my kids sometimes call me? It breaks my heart to have to always be the one who asks if: the homework is done, the test is studied for, the debits are recorded in the checkbook, the keys are in the backpack, the glasses are in the bag, the math test got rescheduled. But if I don’t do it, who will?
The experts say, that it isn’t our job to micro manage our children. Let them learn on their own. You have to fail to succeed. Wow-- maybe harder than being the bad guy every day, is the job of sitting back and watching your child fail. I understand the idea of not doing everything for your children. I understand that you can’t protect them from all disaster, sickness and pain. But I do believe we have a responsibility as a parent to show them the way. Why is it so important to do that homework, to get a good grade on that test, to remember your key? Because that is real life, people. You can’t live your life in a fog, never knowing what comes next or where you put something. If you are given the responsibility to get a paper signed, or to turn your homework in on time, or to bring your glasses so you can see the board, or to bring your key so someone doesn’t have to take time off work to drive over and let you in the house, then you must learn to do it.
If not for you, then for the others around you. I think teenagers especially don’t realize that what they do or don’t do affects others around them. What if you don’t do your homework, or worse yet, what if you do it but don’t turn it in for credit? What if your grade because of this falls to a D? What if that forces the director of the high school musical you are playing a lead role in to kick you out and find a replacement for you halfway through the show? How does that affect the other kids in the show? Why should their production be compromised because you were too selfish to see beyond what your laziness in not doing the homework meant to them? Maybe you didn’t care, but others do.
There are always things to be remembered. I am a lister. I admit it. But anyone who knows me, also knows I often times lose my lists. But the list itself is only physical evidence of what has already transpired within me. I thought about what comes next, where I am going, what I will need. If I lose the list, I have still taught my brain to think it out. The writing it down just helps me remember. Do I sometimes get off track and forget things? Yeah. Does life throw me a curve ball and hinder my plan to accomplish or achieve things on my list? Of course, almost daily. But at least I am not living my life in a fog. I accomplish things, I fail at things, I learn how to do things better. I guess in the end that is what I want my kids to do, too. I want them to think it out for themselves. To learn to be independent. To care about their grades, their work ethic, their future. And to care how their actions affect others around them.
So as a mom, I ask myself where is the appropriate line between nagging and ignoring? I have seen what happens when no one cares and kids are forced to go it alone. It isn’t pretty. And what exactly does someone learn from that? What not to do, maybe. How do they then learn what TO DO if no one shows them their options? If being the one to show them the way means I have to take the flak, and let the mean looks and the insults and the hate they sometimes throw my way, just bounce off me, I guess I’ll gladly do it. It isn’t an easy job. There aren’t any right answers to where that line is. I suppose it is different for every mother, and for every child. Some things work and some things, just don’t. At the end of the day, when I lay down to sleep, I just hope I have done something to show my children at least one step of the way. Whether they appreciated it, or not.