I posted about this on Facebook this morning, but I gots more to say. So I'm saying it.
Last year Claire's school taught me a valuable lesson. Claire's class had library day once a week -- I think it was Wednesdays, but I can't really remember. It's not important. For about two months straight, Claire forgot to take her library book. So for two months straight, I took it up to the school. I figured, she's 5, it's my responsibility to remind her of things, and since I forgot, I should fix the situation. Sound logic for the helicopter parent that I thought I wasn't. So one time, I took it up there well before library time. Claire came home with no new library book. I was shocked. The secretary hadn't given it to her before library time. And then it hit me: it wasn't my responsibility. And it wasn't the secretary's. Claire was 5 years old, more than capable of remembering things like this. And, wonder of wonders, she didn't forget her library book for the rest of the year. Imagine that! She learned the lesson that she had to remember her own book if she wanted a new one.
But while her lesson was important, I think mine was even bigger. My child is no longer a baby. I am not responsible for every little thing she does. She is capable of remembering things like homework and library books and show-and-tell stuff. So I backed off a little. I still remind her when she comes home that she has to do her homework first thing, because that's the rule in our house. You don't get any screen time or outside play until the homework is done. But I only remind one time. And if it doesn't get done, or if she doesn't pack it into her backpack, she misses recess and works on it then, and it's her responsibility, not mine.
I don't want to raise children who blame all their troubles on other people. I don't want to raise the child who cries that a teacher "gave her" a D in math -- I want her to know that she earned that D. Because in the same token, when she earns an A, I want her to know that SHE earned it, and she can be proud of her success. If he's struggling, I want him to be able to think through the problem and come up with a solution without falling into despair and begging other people to fix it. And when he solves that problem, I want him to feel empowered in his own life.
No parent wants their children to suffer, even for a minute. When Claire came home earlier this year and told me that she'd missed recess because she didn't take her homework to school, I felt bad. But I didn't tell her that. I helped her see that it wasn't the end of the world, and that all she had to do to prevent the situation was remember her homework from now on. And of course, the situation came up several more times during the course of the year, because she's still learning that lesson. But it wasn't the end of the world, so I kept trying to help her learn it instead of just swooping in and fixing it for her. Am I perfect in this regard? No. I know there are some situations where I take charge too much, with both kids. I'm controlling by nature, and I don't like waiting for a situation to resolve itself when I can jump in and fix it faster. So I make mistakes. But I'm learning too.
What is that saying about fishing? "Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man how to fish, and he eats for the rest of his life." That's what I'm trying to do. Teach them how to fish. The only thing I'm trying to give them is the fishing pole.