The definition of a good parent is subjective. From self-reliant, to successful, to soccer extraordinaire, and everything in between, parents are judged on a lot of different markers when it comes to the outcome of their kids. Some define a good parent as someone who takes care of his child’s every need, and then some. Others classify a good parent as one who makes decisions in the best interest of her child first, before anything else. Still another faction of folks designate a good parent by the level of respect and politeness said parent’s children demonstrate to others. There’s no one, solid, correct answer. Basically, as a parent, you have to choose what’s important to you to provide for your kids, and dig in from there.
It’s not easy, by any stretch of the imagination. Sometimes it’s downright hard to make the decisions that you know are right for you and your family. Take, for instance, today’s decision to let my child muster through running club after school without her running gear that she neglected to pack. On the way to school this morning, I double-checked my 9-year-old that she had her bag running clothes for her after-school program.
“I have that today?” she inquired earnestly.
“Yep. Every Monday and Wednesday. Today’s Wednesday,” I responded matter-of-factly.
At that moment, the 2nd bell rang from the school, still a half a block away, indicating it’s time for my daughter to hit it so that she can make it into her seat by the last bell.
“I’ll pick you up after run club!” I yelled after her. “You’ll be fine in your jeans. Love you!”
There was not time for my daughter to get upset. She bolted across the street, down the block, and into the entrance of the school. It was actually an ideal situation. I didn’t have to deal with the moaning and groaning of her worrying how she will possibly run in jeans instead of sweatpants and her nice knit shirt instead of her long-sleeve thermal and sweatshirt. There was no chance for her to ‘wa, wa, wa’ about how unlucky she is for having forgotten her good running shoes and tell me that she’ll probably get a blister from the shoes she has on. It was just done.
I did an about-face and headed back home, without a second thought to the after-school running. By 10am, I was debating whether to pack a quick bag and drop it off at school on the way back from dropping my little one at preschool.
“No, I’m not going to do it,” I kept telling myself. “This is good for her.”
My 4th grader has had a hard time this year with organization and planning and scheduling. First it was the homework…when to do which assignments during the week to meet her class deadlines and when to push it off until another day. Next was how to function when getting home late from after-school activities, where she sacrifice some of her free time, family time, and homework time. Now she’s working on finessing her morning routine so that she rises, takes care of her school preparations before eating and free-time, so that she’s always ready for her day. My gut told me that this was a lesson for her in the last rung of her organization ladder.
I went on about my day, but by mid-afternoon, the freakin’ running bag entered my mind again! Maybe I was being too much of a hard-ass and I should just throw her shoes and some sweats in a bag and drop them off in the office at school before the end of the day. After all, she’s a good kid. Competing in my head, though, ran a loop of a conversation I’d recently had with a school official regarding the high number of instances each day where parents drop forgotten items off at school for their children. Lunchboxes, lunch money, gym clothes, homework, and projects….all things that their kids NEED to complete their day. In reality, kids will scrounge off of someone else’s lunch, play volleyball in their Uggs, get a reduction in grade for late homework or request an extension. In other words, it all works itself out.
Reminding myself of that, I decided to stick to my guns and drop the issue altogether. My daughter of course made it through practice without a hitch, enjoyed her workout, and was only mildly annoyed at the fact that I had consciously decided not to bring her clothes to her in the middle of the day. After thinking about it more, she said she completely understood and respected my decision and that it was a good lesson for her, but that she was still a little irritated by it.
Fine by me. I’m her mom, not her fan club or girlfriend. My job is to allow her to eventually figure things out on her own, experience consequences of actions, and see how the world really works. The world works like this: things don’t always go according to plan and sometimes you have to just deal with it. She dealt, as did I.