One of the hardest things for me, as a mom, is knowing that I have to turn my children over to the world. I don’t want to sometimes. There are days I would prefer to keep them tucked safely under my wings, with blankets, books and comfort food.
But of course, that’s not my job.
My job is to work myself out of a job. To teach my kids not to need me. And as much as that doesn’t sound fun, I know it’s the best thing I can do for them.
My son started second grade this year, as a happy, eager-to-learn 7-year-old. But within the first week, he’d encountered a bully, the experience of being too small (and a little too uncoordinated) to play sports with some of his friends, and kids wanting to copy his work because he’s the smartest in the class.
That’s a lot for one child to take in a week.
He came home dejected, sad and quiet. Quite different from the boy I had sent off to school a few days earlier. He would cry easily, and he seemed so upset and tired.
My instinct was so swoop in, make him feel better, and make it all go away. But again, not my job.
I constantly checked in with myself, asking what can I teach him, what can we both learn from this and how to make sure he feels loved and supported as I keep sending him back into the world each day where he will have to deal with this on his own.
Of course I listened, asked him questions, checked with the teacher to see what his 7-year-old eyes may have missed and even spoke with the principal to make sure I had the full story. Unfortunately, I did.
I happen to believe there are few accidents in life, and this story is no exception. The week that school started, a friend suggest that I read How Children Succeed by Paul Tough. Honestly, I suggest this book for every parent, and well, non-parent. It’s much more about human nature and the skills we’ll need to truly succeed than it is just about children.
The book discusses, in great detail, the importance of teaching our children grit, self-control, zest (awesome word, right?), social intelligence, gratitude, optimism and curiosity.
And here I was, faced with an opportunity to do just that with my son. This wasn’t a problem that was going to fix itself, this wasn’t something I could wish away. This was life, coming directly at my child. I felt it was my responsibility to teach him how to navigate through it, not to fix it for him. That would rob him of the opportunity to learn these skills.