My oldest son is 16, and it recently hit me that in two years he could possibly move out of our house. He could become responsible for his own health and well-being. He could be charged with the task of functioning on his own in this complicated world.
He would have to buy groceries, do laundry and prepare meals. Fill out forms, schedule doctor appointments and manage a checking account.
Just the thought of it scares me to death.
I realized all these years while I was trying to be a good mother, I was actually doing him a bit of a disservice.
I’m sure any mom can relate to this scenario: you have three loads of laundry to do, groceries to put away, and six work-related emailed to reply to. Your teenage son is in front of the TV, looking at his phone. You can either go disrupt his state of electronic nirvana, deal with the groans and grunts, drag him into the laundry room, spend twenty minutes explaining how you don’t wash colors in hot water, have him complain some more, and then hope he doesn’t ruin the family’s clothes.
Or, you can just toss a load of laundry in the washer and move on to your next task.
I know what decision I made, as I kept telling myself I’d show him how to wash clothes next time. Except next time never seemed to come. Now he’s 16 going-on independence, with no idea about how to wash clothes.
Most, if not all, parents have faced this dilemma numerous times as they raise their children. It’s just easier to mow the lawn than to teach them how to use the mower. It’s just faster to clean the bathroom yourself than to show a surly teenager how to clean a toilet. It’s better to just scramble the eggs than clean up the inexplicable mess they will make.
I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad about making these choices. Not at all. Parenting is hard work. It is, without question, the hardest thing I’ve done in my life. On top of that challenge, we’re all incredibly busy and pressed for time. It’s totally instinctual to make the most efficient choice when faced with these daily decisions. Only the truly hard core among us are disciplined enough to take advantage of every opportunity to teach their children useful skills.
But still. I could have done more.
You know, that really is the parenting conundrum.
On one hand, there’s that persistent voice in your head questioning whether you’ve done enough. Am I spending enough time? Am I making the right choices for them? Can I do more? I should do more.
And then, when you do more — when you take impeccable care of your children and family from matching their socks to picking the right school district — you’re not letting them grow, be challenged and learn to be independent.
Bottom line is caring, dedicated parents can’t win.
But we can do our best, love them with all our hearts and hope it all works out.
The good news is I have two more years to teach him how to scramble eggs.