Sometimes, a parent needs to let their children fail, in order for their children to grow.
For a long time, I have not been able to do this. I continue to "save the day." I constantly solve problems that my children should be solving for themselves.
This morning, one of my children woke me at 7:15 am for help. The child had a Bar Mitzvah at the Jerusalem Bird Observatory, and did not know how to get there. The child wanted to arrive early, for the first part of the event: observing the staff free birds. The child planned on taking a bus, but did not know which buses to take or, it turns out, even where the place was.
The child could have gotten this information in advance.
I would have been happy to help the child find a ride, or figure out which buses to take, or draw a map. Had the child planned in advance, the child could easily have gotten to the Bar Mitzvah (without waking me up in the morning). Instead, the child got up early, and discovered that getting there by bus would not be simple, or quick.
When the child woke me up, I did not want to wake up, but I did. I made several suggestions to the child, who then proceeded to argue with me about "what ifs." When the child finally followed through with my suggestions, over an hour later, it was too late.
I still tried to help the child, and, at one point, was ready to drop everything and actually take the child.
I wondered if I was doing the right thing. Maybe I should let this child learn, the hard way, to be more responsible. Maybe missing this Bar Mitzvah would teach the child to appreciate that you have to be nice to people who are trying to help you, even if they are your parents. Maybe, by not "saving the day," I will help my child learn the consequences of the one's actions, and inactions. Maybe I was denying this child the opportunity to learn a valuable life lesson.
Still, all my mothering love made me want to help my child.
With my car keys in hand, I casually mentioned that the child really should have talked to me in a nicer, more respectful way. "You were mean to me," the child responded.
No apology, no responsibility.
I threw down my keys. "I am not taking you."
My child has to learn that you cannot be rude to the people who are trying to help you.
"Do not wake me again for something you should have planned in advance," I commanded.
I was angry!
Too angry to fall back asleep.
Over the next two hours, I waited for my child to apologize. Intermittently, my child attempted to "explain" things to me. Unfortunately, the tone my child used to talk with me was full of hostility and aggression. The child blamed me, accusing me of "not wanting to help."
I wanted so much to help my child. But I could not continue helping under those circumstances.
I determined to let my child miss the Bar Mitzvah, in order to learn this lesson.
Then, when my child was "broken," and all the child's anger spent, my child finally turned to me, in sorrow.
The child had really tried hard to be responsible, waking up at 6:00 in the morning, in order to get there on time. The child had tried to explain, tried to get help, tried to apologize.
My child was so frustrated, so sad, and so resigned. There was no longer any anger in my child's voice, just sadness.
It broke my heart.
I got up to give the child a hug. To my surprise, my child allowed me to hug, and even stayed close, while I held on a little longer. The child did not pull away.
I sat down and looked into my child's eyes. I waited.
We spoke a little more. My child continued to speak softly and gently. We hugged again. We looked into each other's eyes again. I waited.
"Ask me again," I softly instructed my child.
"Would you please take me," my child asked, just as softly.
I wondered, again, if I was doing the right thing. My child had already missed several hours of the Bar Mitzvah. I hoped that was enough.
On the way, we talked. I gently pointed out that the child could have been there three hours earlier. As much as possible, without being too chastising, I wanted the child to understand the consequences of not behaving nicely.
I suggested that later, the child sit down and make a list of things the child could have done differently. I offered to sit and help with the list. I emphasized that the list would be about what the child could have done, not what others could have done. Again, to my surprise, the child agreed.
When we arrived, I asked the child if I should wait, but the child said I should leave. I would have, had GA not appeared at my window! I watched my child meander to the entrance, then turned my attention to my friend. Five minutes later, we were still chatting, when I saw my child meander out of the observatory, from the opposite direction.
My child did not find the group and did not ask any of the staff for help. Once again, the child felt helpless and did not know what to do. I waited for the child to ask me for help.
The child did not know whether to stay or go.
Finally, I asked "What do you want? Do you want help? Do you want someone me to come in with you?"
Quietly, the child answered, "yes."
GA was definitely my angel of the moment. He offered to help my child find the Bar Mitzvah group, and they ran off together. A few minutes later, GA returned to my car. They had found the group. My child was fine.
I was not fine.
I wondered if I did the right thing.
I am this child's mother. I will continue trying to help, and I will continue to forgive, because I love this child.
Still, this child must develop responsibility. That is part of growing up.
On the other hand, "losing three hours" of the Bar Mitzvah seemed like enough of a loss. Especially considering the child really had shown initiative and responsibility, just not enough. And the child really did attempt to behave properly, just not enough.
If I continue to swoop in like "supermom," then I am not helping my child learn responsibility.
In the "real world," people are not so forgiving.
But I do not represent the "real world." I am the child's mother. If my child comes to me with true remorse, how can I turn away?
What do you think???
Please daven (or send happy, healing thoughts) for RivkA bat Teirtzel.
With love and optimism,