I had a conversation with my sister yesterday that started with my declaration that I was taking a stand and refusing to accept The Girl’s sloppiness as a reflection of me. She is old enough to take pride in or not care about her appearance. I can no longer sort through drawers and clean out closets obsessively to ensure no wrinkles. If she shoves her shit into one drawer out of laziness, then she’ll pay the wrinkled price.
The autonomy felt strange and I questioned whether I should be allowed to have it. Then when the conversation switched to talking about the kids on the school bus that harrassed their senior-citizen bus aide I found myself singing another tune. I thought the parents should be inconvenienced because clearly they needed to step in and do something about their troubled kids. Then I worried that I don’t really know if my kids would act that way. Peer pressure is a powerful thing. Maybe the parents weren’t to blame.
Wow-who knew I could wield such a Judgy double-edged sword in a matter of seconds?
The truth is, I have no idea where I’m supposed to pull back and where I should insert myself more. Where is the line between preaching and teaching and when do kids stop listening to either? I would like to think that by removing myself from my daughter’s clothes care and maintenance, that I’m teaching her some responsibility. But how do I ensure I teach enough resonsibility that when faced with a situation where they’re asked to do something wrong, they know to say no and stop the others, or at the very least, walk away?
I want nothing more than to raise responsible, empathic kids. Quite frankly, I don’t really care about their wrinkled clothes but I’m hoping that they do enough to start to clean up their rooms. I only remember my mom verbally teaching me two specific lessons: even if they say they don’t, boys mostly want sex so tread lightly and girls can be mean so if you have just one best friend your whole life, consider yourself lucky. Perhaps not the best (or at least most positive) lessons in the world to speak out loud, but I do remember them and they rang in my ears during some ugly fights with friends and with almost every interaction I had with boys. The lesson I really took away from my mom though, I got by watching her. I learned through her actions that we all have two big responsibilities in order to do right by the world: never judge another soul since we aren’t God (clearly I still need help with that) and keep our doors open to anyone who may need to enter.
I guess my mom actually provided my answer: stop all the talky-talk and show my kids how I want them to be. If I’m responsible, and empathic and kind, hopefully they’ll catch those lessons enough to grow up and do right by the world, even if all their clothes are wrinkled.
P.S. Looking for more parenting guidance and tips for self-care? Check out From Chaos to Calm a guided training to help you feel better in this tough season.