This article, entitled Should parents bail their kids out of sticky situations? comes from Karah Levely-Rinaldi at fruitamoms.com
The phone rings. It’s my oldest.
“Mom, can you help me?”
She’s forgotten a permission slip for a field trip.
I pause for a moment. I’ve certainly got empathy for this situation. There have been plenty of times I’ve shown up for a run only to realize I don’t have a headlamp or don’t have my handheld water bottle. Or I’ve been late everywhere I was supposed to be on a given day, wishing I could have a body double who could deliver the kids everywhere, early and with a smile. It would be pretty easy to just run up to the middle school and drop it off.
“Where is it?” I ask.
“On the table, Mom.”
“I don’t see it there,” I tell her.
Then, in a rush, trying to crank out lunch for a table of hungry kids, I say, “No. You forgot it, and I can’t drop everything to run it up to you.”
We say goodbye and I get off the phone.
Instantly, I’m wracked with guilt. I’ve always been the mom caught between two worlds of those moms who have full-time, outside-the-home employment and those who are full-time, stay-at-home moms fully focused on the kids. I want to be there for my kids, too, supporting them in all their endeavors. It’s not always possible with my work schedule, though. I don’t want to be the “mean mom” when they actually reach out for something, or be difficult for no particular reason.
I also don’t want to be a helicopter parent – the one who comes in to switch up her child’s schedule whenever there’s conflict with another child, or who hovers at sporting practices, rehearsals and other events, making sure a smooth path is paved all the way.
I long for those days in the 70s and 80s when we all roamed free, sans cell phones and bike helmets, and never called our parents from school or at play. I want my girl to have some skills at solving day-to-day problems.
The day goes on, and I wonder what happened. Would she miss a field trip because I didn’t look hard enough for the permission slip? Did she talk to her teacher and ask for an extra day to get it in?
Eventually, she makes it home. I’m kind of expecting a grouchy 13-year-old. Instead, she’s friendly. Pleasant, almost. We chat briefly about the day, and then I ask about the permission slip.
“I found it. It was in the very bottom of my bag. I turned it in.”
A rush of relief passes over me. I really didn’t want her to miss a field trip; I also felt it was very important, at her age, that she learn to be on top of her own stuff. Even if she was angry at me in that moment, she went back and searched again for what she needed, and SHE FOUND IT.
It’s a tiny victory at an age when mother and daughter routinely do battle.
I know this is only the beginning of the head-butting years.
It also brings me back to my headstrong teenage years, fighting to be independent. I remind myself that this will teach her to be a strong woman some day, being able to “work the problem,” as my favorite line from “Apollo 13″ goes.
Sure, I got ticked at my parents when I was a kid and they didn’t bail me out of every sticky situation. In hindsight, though, I’m glad they taught me that sticky doesn’t mean impossible. Learning to “work the problem” on little things pays lifelong dividends when it’s time to break down bigger challenges.
Karah Levely-Rinaldi is a Grand Junction, Colo., mom of four. She is a daycare provider and an ultramarathon runner. Read her Mondays on fruitamoms.com.