A few years ago, after dropping my kids off at Pleasanton Middle School, I meet a few friends at Starbucks. The conversations went something like this---
“So, what’d you get on your report card?” I asked, tapping a venti latte with my nails.
“Five A’s, 2B’s. How about you?” said another mom as she checked her cell phone.
“Four A’s, one B and one C. Took me two parent teacher meetings and a call to the principal to get the C,” I said.
“Try harder next time.”
Things have gotten so bad that we feel personally responsible for kid’s failures, always trying to resolve problems. It’s time to stop helping so much and let them learn from the consequences of their actions.
Let me be the first to admit I help my kids way too much. From typing lengthy, boring essays at midnight to checking tedious math homework before breakfast, I can’t stop helping. Heck, I’ve even finished their chores and done homework assignments.
But, I am adult enough to realize that I can’t stop helping because it makes me feel needed. I’m part of the problem and it’s time to break the cycle.
Stage One, Denial.
Here’s what happened two days before the end of the school year. My son strolled into the house after hanging out with friends and announced, “I need to turn in a Kleenex box for extra credit or I’ll get a B in class. School’s short on supplies.”
“What!? How did you let it come down to end?” I said, hunching my shoulders.
“I don’t know,” he said, walking away without so much as a backward glance.
After my daughter returned home from school, it was more of the same.
“I need a costume for my speech tomorrow,” she said, twirling her hair around a pencil.
“What speech?” I asked.
“I’m playing the role of Stella for A Streetcar Named Desire.”
“What does she wear?”
“I have no idea,” she said as she sauntered down the hallway. “And I need to bring a pan of brownies to Spanish.”
My forehead wrinkled like a Chinese Shar-Pei with a mental list of all I would have to do tomorrow. I realized that while my kids would be signing yearbooks, cleaning out old homework and making plans for the summer, I would be doing their dirty work.
The next morning at the Dollar Store, I grabbed a case of tissues, and thought to myself, “If one box is worth an extra point, why not get a case?” I shoved the boxes into the car and raced to find a Stella dress. Eureka, after five stops I found a gauzy, white sleeveless dress with a tiny belt that somewhat matched the photo I downloaded from the Internet. All that was left to do was make brownies.
But it got worse.
Two days later, my son jumped in the car and with a smile he announced, “It was too late to get extra credit. The boxes were due yesterday. You can keep the Kleenex.” And my daughter’s speech was canceled.
Twenty-four hours later I’m stuck with a case of cheap tissues, a dress to return and Stage Two, Anger.
At Starbucks on the last day, the mood was one of general relief among the mothers. We vowed that next year we would do less for our kids, encourage them to be empowered. No more last minute trips to the school to drop off missing homework or library books. Forget about writing excuses for late passes. Stop making last minute runs to the store for school projects. With a high-five, we declared enough was enough.
Stage Three, Bargaining.
But the buzzing of my cell phone broke the jubilant mood.
“Hey, Mom. I left the brownies at home. Could you just run it up to school? Class starts in ten minutes.”
“Sorry, I’m too busy,” I said with a puff of my cheeks and a shoulder shrug.
“But, what do I tell my class?” she pleaded.
“Tell them you forgot. Gotta go,” I said and just like that I hung up. I’ve arrived at Stage Four, Acceptance.
I decided to eat the brownies. They tasted delicious!