Monday, February 22, 2010

My Bad!

So many wonderful writers with small children using new media to express their hopes, their dreams, their fears.

Fewer older Moms blogging, but those that are share similar common goals. How do I stay relevant in a world filled with diapers, bottles, ear infections suddenly becomes how do I stay sane in a world of freak dancing, hooking-up, driving, girlfriends, less and less hands on mothering, more and more head tripping?

What can I offer the young mothers and fathers? Ahhhh. My mistakes.

Should have allowed sons to do all their own homework.
Should have allowed sons to forget to do their homework and suffer the consequences.
Should have allowed sons to learn how to self advocate.
Should not have hovered about so much.
Should have discouraged sleep overs (nothing good comes from sleep-overs)
Should have said NO easier and more often.
Should have insisted on more reading time.
Should have made sons put dishes in the dishwasher.
Should have taught sons how to do their own laundry.
Should insist on them making their bed every morning.
Should have encouraged sons to commit to exercising daily.
Should have discouraged so much organized sports
Should have encouraged pick-up games.
Should not have succumbed to fears that bubbles over in small communities of mommies.
Should not have worried the small stuff like grades and test scores and private schools.
Should have worried more about making good, compassionate people.
Should have not allowed my world to be completely taken over by theirs.
Should have gone away on more vacations with just my hubby.
Should not have freaked out when they got the 'wrong' teacher.
Should have had opera playing in my home as I cooked dinner.
Should have waited as long as possible to buy son his own computer(it's the beginning of the end when they have their own laptop!)
Should not have given sons an excuse to come home early from "outdoor ed" if they got homesick.
Should have insisted on earning money--babysitting, dog feeding, anything.
Should have always listened to my gut.

Looking at this list, I realize something astonishing. I know that most of my mistakes come from a place of love but I also realize they come from a place of fear. As a doting mother I want my sons to have choices. You will hear yourselves say this time and time again. And you will want to swoop in and fix things so that none of their choices will be taken away. But as I sit back and think about the choices I have made, I realize I have perhaps taken away some very important, basic survival skills. I created less resilient kids! This is not a little thing. Disappointment is a huge part of human development. But like most of my contemporaries, I couldn't stand to watch my children suffer disappointment, so I hovered ready to sweep in to fix problems way too early.

So today I leave you with this: Don't be afraid to let your children fail. Be there to pick-up the pieces, hold them tightly and love them, but let them fail. And make sure you define success for yourself and your family. I encourage you to Challenge Success and read Denise Pope's wonderful book, "Doing School: How we are Creating a Generation if Stressed-Out, Materialistic, and Miseducated Students."

I realize that the reason we don't want our children to be disappointed is that we want them to come away from childhood with their self-esteem in tact. Failing and then picking oneself up and figuring out how to go forward from that failure is what creates real self-esteem.

I hear next month if my youngest will get into the independent high schools he hopes to attend. For a moment today I began to worry about the disappointment he will feel if he is rejected. I stopped myself. I will love him no matter if he gets in or not. I will be there to help him understand the situation. And I will gently encourage him to go forward to one of the great public high schools and turn the situation into something great for him. That in the end is success and that will create real self confidence.


  1. Terry, this is a wonderful post, chock full of abstract and concrete advice. I love your conclusion about the close connection between acting out of love and acting out of fear. I think those two emotions dominate my parenting: fierce love and a fierce fear of what might happen. Thank you for putting words to the truth of my experience.

  2. Thanks Kristen: It is just so darn hard to let them fail.

  3. I love this list! It is not too late for a lot of these things though. The best thing about going back to work is watching all of my boys become more self sufficient. I came home the other night and found all of the dishes unloaded from the dishwasher, a new load started, salad made for dinner, all of the clothes in the laundry room, the garbage emptied from the house and at the curb - completely unsolicited!

    It is so hard to watch them struggle - but it is great to see them overcome whatever it is!

  4. Patti, we are listening to Opera right now. I am going to try and break bad old habits!!!! Good for your boys. They are awesome.

  5. Brilliant list. You haven't missed a thing. We can all still use it, and remember it's never too late to teach them how to do laundry! Making them sit down and read rather than text or compute seems impossible however.
    The opera intrigues. Which one do you like?

  6. I think you need to stop being so hard on yourself. I did lots of the things you say: my kids all did their own wash at 13; I let them fall on their face with homework; insisted on reading time; insisted on some form of exercise each week; made them stick out things if they were homesick; only bought laptops as HS graduation gifts....
    But you know what? I could give you my own "Should've List," equally long or longer, overflowing with all different things. We're so hard on our own parenting.
    I'll bet your kids are amazing. And I know how they got that way!
    I just added you to my blog roll!

  7. Maureen: I guess the most important thing is just to love them. But, it sounds like your kids are amazing. It's fun reading some of the younger mothers out there blogging and wonder what it will be like to raise kids in this decade!