I called home on my return from a business trip. My husband laughingly asked me to talk to my middle son about advice he received from his 5 year old sister. His voice had no laughter in it as he indignantly shared, “She told me solve my own problems!” And then he added for the benefit of everyone in earshot of the phone, “She heard that from mom!!”
As I hung up, I thought about that advice, which I know I give on a relatively frequent basis. I love to help out my kids (and just about anyone else who will let me, if I am completely candid). I am a fixer. In fact, nothing makes me happier than solving something for someone. And my kids, pictured here at my daughter’s birthday party, are dearer to me than anyone on the planet.
My elder son recently had his phone and wallet stolen. I could see he felt violated, frustrated and a more than a little heart broken. We discussed how he would need to either replace or get by without the stolen items for a period. I had a truly sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that I could not make this right for him. I was so sorely tempted to just say I would buy everything for him again.
But I knew this was a valuable life lesson I should not deprive him of because of my need to fix stuff. He had not been as careful as he should have been with valuable property. Part of me hated he had to lose his innocence and trust so early. But another part was glad the lesson came in a reasonably, manageable package.
I found life can be hard and often bumpy. Often I needed to rely on myself and problem-solve my way out of tough situations – some of my own making. I want my children to have that capacity as well. I will not always be there for them which is a painful realization. A very challenging part of my job, is teaching them to take care of themselves and letting them learn some things through experience. I find it much less satisfying as a mother, at least in the moment, but frankly more important for my kids. My role is to prepare them for the rest of their lives. My teenager is on the brink which is a bittersweet reminder for me most days.
That evening after returning late from the police station to report the items stolen, I sat down with my son. I told him how truly sorry I was this happened to him but I hoped it would be a valuable lesson for him. He responded with uncharacteristic seriousness and said, “Thanks for supporting me through figuring out what to do. I appreciated that you didn’t just get mad at me.” I was touched and realized there is more than one way to help. Sometimes just being available and supportive is enough: one lesson learned by my son and another learned by this mom.