“I don’t know what’s worse, ” I whined, a half-drunk glass in my hand, “letting my child fail in order to learn a lesson or making her mad at me for making the right decision on her behalf to give her a better chance at success.”
It’s a fine line between reality discipline and coddling our children sometimes. Friday night I had the fortunate opportunity to have dinner with one of my besties. We both experienced a long week and used our found hour together to share a meal and a couple of glasses of wine. Sometimes the best therapy is just time with someone else who is currently walking in your shoes. We have daughters the same age. We have the same daily struggles with dodging flying hormones and dirty looks. And according to both our children, we are never right.
After my heated conversation with The Tortoise about next year’s schedule, I was totally spent and it was nice to let off a little steam. It felt good to be able to release some emotional vomit and not be judged or criticized. It was doubly good to feel validated about some of my parenting decisions. But the thing I most valued, was my friend’s perspective.
“I think, if we raise our kids to be compassionate, honest, hard-working, faithful, family and community focused adults, then we have raised extraordinary individuals,” she said.
There are times when our kids must fail in order to understand the value of hard work and success. But then there are times we must determine if failing will too greatly impair future success, requiring us to step in and make some hard decisions on our children’s behalf. After all, they are just children. Not allowing The Tortoise to take extra classes next school year was one of those tough decisions. The possible impact of doing any more damage to her already compromised GPA was too much of a risk, in my opinion, something that would impact college applications later. By the time I left the restaurant Friday night, I was at peace about our schedule decision, and I was at peace knowing that in my daughter’s eyes I was completely wrong and unfair.
“Mom,” The Tortoise said the next morning, “I need to tell you something, but I’m a little embarrassed.”
She and I were stealing a few moments alone together in the car to get Saturday morning donuts. I was surprised she was even speaking to me actually, it had only been a couple of days since our fallout.
“Sure,” I replied, “you can say anything you need to.”
The Tortoise took a deep breath before speaking.
“Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about the decision you and dad made about school next year,” she said.
My grip on the steering wheel tightened.
Let her speak without taking it personally, I thought.
“And I realize now that you were right. I had a hard time keeping up with six classes this year. I can’t imagine how I would have kept up with seven next year. Spanish II in summer school does make the most sense.”
“Thank you for telling me,” I replied with a smile, taking her words completely personally.