They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. In my opinion nowhere is that more true than in parenting. I have realized that by trying to shield my kids from any harm, solve their every problem, denying them well, almost nothing can, I am actually not doing them any favors. I am certainly not preparing my children for life but setting myself up for a lifetime of slavery. Nobody wants that, let’s be honest every parent’s goal is to at one point have them move out, build their own lives and not depend on us.
For that to happen I really must:
- Stop being so helpful.
I am trying to help them with everything. Yes, often the reasons for it are purely selfish. If I pick the clothes and dress them up, I will save time, my sanity and the end result will be much better. But I guess it’s time to suck it up, let them pick and choose and dress. Down the line I really don’t want her calling at two am when she’s sneaking out of some boy’s room to help her put on pantyhose. Nor do I look forward to going with her to the university to cut her food, pour juice or wipe her bottom. If I sit back now and then and let them do it on their own, I might feel bad when they fail, but I am not ruining them.
- Teach them to want.
Though they make it sound as if they do. Everything is necessary, even vital for their happiness and they so make you feel bad about saying no. It sucks, but welcome to the real world of parenting. Still, I have to keep telling myself nobody can have it all. Me for starters. Or I’d be married to Brad Pitt, have kids at school abroad and be writing this on the Maldives. But back to reality. So, even if today it’s just a lollipop, it shouldn’t come too easy. There is no better rush, then to get something you had to work hard for, when you really wanted it. And I don’t mean the lollipop, but I have seen my kids get toys we thought they couldn’t live without, only to be thrown into the corner, never to be played with again. I want them to learn to want, to fight, to do something to get their way. Not just cry their heart out in the store and for the sake of propriety we give into them. I’d love to see them try that on their boss, when he tells them they can’t have their raise.
- Let them be good enough.
When my daughters pick their own clothes, most of the time it looks like a Jackson Pollock painting exploded on them. But I have learned to pick my battles, if they are warm enough I let it go. I have also learned that DIY projects in our house never look appropriate for Pinterest. Neither I nor the kids know how to use scissors properly, paint the edges right and so it goes. Still, we don’t give up. And when I am about to frustratingly pull my hair out, because after a few minutes it seems as if the whole house is involved, I sneak into the kitchen and stuff myself with chocolate. Honestly, I don’t think there is anything my kids can do perfectly, but be themselves. But that’s good enough.
- Not fix all their problems.
Everytime my daughter complains about a class mate bothering her, I am tempted to march straight up there and fix it all for her. OK, I picture punching the kid, but luckily it’s usually in the evening when she confides in me and by the morning I have had enough time, to see the situation for what it is. Usually something, she needs to handle on her own. No punching, of course. It’s horrible seeing your kid frustrated, sad or worried, but she needs to learn to cope with it, because frankly, life is full of it. Even if I wanted to, I can’t make this world perfect for her, she needs to find her own place in it. I can’t make boys treat her right, boss respect her and friends not disappoint her, but I can help her demand it.
- Let them go.
I think I was happiest when my kid was inside me. I had her all to myself, kept her safe, watched her every move. But I am getting smart enough (it’s actually a work in progress) to know that once she was out of me, she is not me, not part of me, she is her own wonderful self, with her friends, with her own desires and aspirations. I am merely here to set boundaries, guide her, as someone she can always go back to, who will forever love her unconditionally and enough to let her go.