Our oldest is 13.
THIRTEEN YEARS OLD.
In Judaism that means our boy is a man, now fully responsible for his actions (or lack thereof).
We are not Jewish, therefore my 13-year-old is still an infant. At least he is to me.
For the last 13+ years of raising said boy, we… mainly I, have done very important things to prepare him for life: cleaned up his spills, done his laundry, picked up his room, arranged play dates with quality children of good families, made sure he doesn’t climb too high or run too far away and BY GOLLY, I’ve done my darndest to make sure he turns in his homework.
I’ve done all of these things because I love him. I don’t want him to get hurt physically or to endure the pain that comes from feeling a teacher’s wrath if the assignment isn’t turned in. Come to think of it, I don’t want him to hurt at all… only to feel “good things” because feeling good doesn’t feel bad 😉
But now that he’s 13 and our boy is a man by some standards, I’m coming to realize that he’s anything but and it’s kind of my fault. Yikes.
In all my trying to protect my kid from experiencing failure, I have unwittingly caused him to be unprepared for life and independence and prepared him instead…to FAIL.
You see, until this week, I’ve woken him up (not the alarm clock), made his lunches (does he even eat them?), “assisted” with his laundry (he loads and starts the machine), checked the status of his homework online (more on this later) and pretty much have not trained him to be independent of his parents when the time comes in a mere 5 years.
FIVE YEARS. In just that small timeframe my son will be a legal, voting adult that can get a credit card, live on his own, heck, he can go to a dealership to buy a car if he wants!
I have not done him any favors by picking up his slack and it’s starting to show.
So, after much encouragement by my amazingly wise husband and some (okay, lots of) resistance from me, this week I am forfeiting my helicopter parenting license. I have been grounded.
And it’s terrible.
Every day at 6:25am I have sat in the kitchen and waited for him to get out of bed. He has an alarm clock and knows how to set it so SURELY he’ll come out by 6:30, right?
By 6:45 every nerve in my body has itched to walk down the hall, pop my head through the doorway and remind him gently that it’s time to rise and shine. And because it’s hard to be grounded I caved and DID give in… Monday through Thursday.
Today, however, I did not. I can’t tell him “You’re now responsible for yourself” and then do everything for him. Nope, today at 7:10, after every other member of the family was up and eating breakfast, our #1 wandered down the hall, sleep crusting over his eyes.
He saw the clock and immediately yelled at me for “messing with” his alarm… Um, NO. Sorry dude, if you don’t set it, it doesn’t go off.
He quickly showered and shoved a banana down his throat and just barely made the bus. He would’ve had to walk 3+ miles if he missed it and I was determined to let him.
And that was just getting to school. Once there? Oh Lord have mercy. There is HOMEWORK at school! Projects! Tests! How will he fare without me?!
Well, apparently there are other parents out there like me because NOW there’s an App for that.
At school there’s this crazy app thingy that allows teachers post all assignments and grades online. I see the value in it… sort of. But when I’m told, “Mom and Dad, you can even select this part of the program to send you a text or an alert if your son or daughter has a missing assignment or a test coming up”… I want to scream.
I do not want to have to keep track of my child’s homework from his SEVEN CLASSES in addition to the homework of my other 4 school-aged kids. My gosh, my CHILD should be keeping track of his homework! *Gasp!*
It hits me: my role is changing. I am graduating. We’re both growing up. I’m learning to let go and he’s learning to lean in and do it himself.
And that will mean he’ll fail. Or does it? What if I let go AND HE SUCCEEDS?!
It’s up to him. That scares me because I don’t want him to fail. I want him to succeed and to know the joys of accomplishment and reward and praise that come when a job is done well.
But he’ll never know any of that if I do it for him. Besides, what am I telling him about my confidence in himself and his abilities if I’m rushing in to take over all the time?
“I correct and discipline everyone I love. So be diligent and turn from your indifference.” –Revelation 3:19
“Whoever spares the rod hates their children, but the one who loves their children is careful to discipline them.” –Proverbs 13:24
All this time I thought I was showing my son (all of our kids, actually) love by sparing him the pain and discomfort of failure. Instead I was doing the opposite. While my intentions were good, I have been doing him a disservice by not preparing him to fail and teaching how to get up and try again. I’ve been creating the very entitled attitudes that I loathe so much and fight against daily.
Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking something about “learning from other people’s mistakes”? Well, it turns out that sometimes the best way to learn a lesson is by going through it yourself. Who’d have thought?
Mistakes have consequences, some of which are painful, others less so.
What I do know is that I want my son, and all of our kids, to become the very best SELVES they can be. I don’t want them to become another “Me”. That means I have to train them up and direct their steps but I also have to gradually let them go so they can become who God created them to be. That can only happen when they experience hardship, pain, remorse, guilt, want… the list goes on and on, because when they go through those things they’ll learn for themselves how best to avoid feeling that way again, and instead experience the joy that comes from succeeding by oneself, healing, forgiveness, grace and more.
Isn’t that what we want for them anyway?
This parenting gig is hard and not for the faint of heart, but as I’m teaching my son, we can learn from the mistakes we make and try again. Who knows, we may even be surprisingly thrilled with the outcome. We’ll never know until we try! ❤
Note: It should be said that our oldest is an amazingly wonderful young man. All comments about lack of preparation are a reflection of MY faults, not of his character or skill set.