I’m an enabler.
Words I had to come to terms with most recently as I continue to parent my children through this next phase of life.
Three words, I might add, I don’t take lightly as I recognize their true meaning. But then I wonder, aren’t all parents enablers to some degree? Many of us admittedly are in denial; we like to think we’re raising our children as we were raised. And … well … we know for certain we were not raised by enablers.
Yet, what I’ve come to recognize is it’s the little things I do (without thought) that in turn are enabling my children and stifling their growth.
A few simple examples would be: making their breakfast, packing their lunches, even doing their laundry.
Oh yes, I hear those who like my past self would say: “I love being there for my children.” “Where’s the harm in helping them?” “That’s my job as their mom.”
The reality I’ve come to through the help of friends, as well as family is … no. That’s truly not our job and if at some point we do not recognize it and release the apron strings we are actually failing at our true job. Our true job (in my opinion) is to raise/foster independent, responsible young adults.
Breakfast and lunch packing in our home are perfect examples. There were lessons to be learned there for my children. Lessons such as time management, responsibility, as well as the simple what to pack and how to pack it.
I liken it to the age old lesson of how to make a peanut butter sandwich. This was an example that seemed to follow me through a lot of classes, when I was in school. If someone has never done it, you must walk them through it step by step until they learn.
Keeping in mind, my children are 11 and 14. One is less than two years from operating a motor vehicle and less than four years from being able to defend this great country. Let that sink in a minute. It’s a fact which an older, wiser and a bit more experienced person in my life reminds me on the regular as he observes “mom the enabler.”
Not to be confused, it’s truly such a habit and act of who I am, that I often don’t see it. The most recent eye opener came by way of the wake-up and my responsibility or irresponsibility, as it were. One stressed out morning, realizing I couldn’t make it to the gym and back in time to wake up my pre-teen and teen children, I had a bit of a meltdown/light bulb moment.
They need to wake themselves.
Okay, sure, many of you have been on this page for quite some time. You may even be raising such wonderful, independent kids that they’ve done it on their own. That’s not my life. My sweet cherubs are more than happy to have mom wake them each morning with her typical “Rise and Shine” that they’ve literally heard their entire life. That had to change.
Suddenly I realized, I won’t be there to wake my son in college. Just as I won’t be there to babysit his grades, pack his lunch or make sure he has clean socks. It’s time to let him be responsible.
Yes, I also understand that to some he’s “only 14,” however the reality of all they need to learn and be equipped with in time to go out and be good, responsible, contributing citizens is very real.
Comparison: at the age of 14 from the hours of 6:30 a.m. until roughly 6:30 p.m. weekly, I was left to my own devices. Raised by a mom who worked full-time and commuted from our San Mateo home to San Francisco, there was just no other way. Actually I was grateful to have a mom that returned home and cooked us dinner, rather than have to do that myself, as well, as many of my friends did.
The hard part of course, as mom, is I enjoy caring for my children and doing the things my mom could not. The reality however, is that this cannot come at the expense of my children.
That’s what I hope some of you gain from this. Our desires to love our children for as long as possible, before turning them out to the world, should not come at their expense. Tough love is a term for a reason and it may have many different faces. In our case, what I’ve learned is yes, it may be tough for my duo to wake themselves, tend to their needs and embrace responsibility fully with mom just a few feet away. The reality however, is I would much rather see them flounder with that a bit while in arms reach, than halfway across the state, the country or the world once they are set off to live their biggest life.
As the saying goes: “Take a man to fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” –Chinese Proverb
Here’s to fostering exceptional “fishermen.”
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.