Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Chance to Make It Right

A couple of months ago, my oldest son told me that I tend to "freak out" over little things. I was shocked. I told him I'd always made a conscious effort to be calm about grades, friends, forgetfulness, messy bedrooms, long hair, and every other minor teenager issue that can be blown completely out of proportion. So I've made an even greater effort since then because, above all else, I don't want my kids to ever be afraid to talk to me. So last night I asked him if he felt I'd been "freaking out" a little less. He kind of shrugged and said, "Sometimes, if we mess up on something, rather than letting us fix it, you say, 'Never mind. I'll take care of it myself.' You don't give us the chance to make it right."

Example: Last week, he spilled quite a bit of milk in the fridge. I was sitting nearby and as I got up, he said, "I'll take care of it." I groaned and said, "No. It's fine. I've got it." Then I cleaned up the mess instead.

I explained to him last night that me cleaning up the mess is my way of letting him know I'm not angry even if I'm frustrated. I've always felt not that he's incapable of making things right, but rather that I don't mind making things right so he can move on.

But I told him I was sorry and that in the future, I'd back off and let him clean up his own messes.

Obviously, I've thought about this conversation a lot, or I wouldn't be writing about it now.

I'm a mom. You can throw any other labels on to me that may fit--wife, editor, daughter--but the one I've fought for the hardest and struggled with the most is "mom." And I take that label seriously. I agonize over my kids and over making the right decisions about and for them. And although my oldest is 14 now, I still have this overarching need to protect all of them--sometimes from the world and sometimes from myself. I've been doing this for so long--preventing messes and cleaning them up--that I haven't realized that they're trying to prevent and clean up their own as they get older.

And they need to. For several reasons. I know that. They need to see they can't always rely on someone else to do it for them. But more importantly, they need to know they're capable of this--of screwing up and recovering and moving on. They need to be able to make things right or they'll never feel it's okay when make them wrong in the first place.


AngryBaker said...

Good point.

I'm such a control freak. I really hope my kids survive. Aside from them learning for themselves, I just struggle with them not doing things the way I like it, which they don't notice much because they're so young, but I know it's going to be problematic.

I wish I lived near you because I'd love for you to be my mom mentor.

Bobbie said...

If I were your mom mentor, your kids would be in as much trouble as mine. It's better that we live halfway across the country from each other. :-)

Though if I did live near you, you could take me shopping, teach me to be braver than I am, make me some caramels, and make me laugh when I needed it.

paccc69 said...

I am glad to see that you recognized that you screwed up yourself (by cleaning up the kids messes) and that you're making an attempt to correct the mistake and move on. Good job!--Chris Cieslak

Christina said...

If the biggest complaint is that you're too helpful at trying to fix/clean up problems for him, I'd say he's a pretty lucky kid. Great post though, and I agree that it's important to let them see what they are capable of. I've missed your posts...they always make me reflect on the spilt milk moments in our family and the stories you share always make me want to do a little better.