My new high school teenager had his first big school project due this week. The lead up involved many acts of nagging, reminding, threatening to get him started and still, it took till the last weekend to see a flurry of stress and activity arise from him. And even then, he kept stopping and asking for me to help, A.K.A, for me to do it for him.
His first effort was unceremoniously critiqued by me. It was harsh criticism that came out of my mouth, uncensored, before I had time to put it through the ‘positive parenting filter’ with a resounding, “Not good enough…not even close…. this is a primary school effort, you are in high school now, it needs much more substance”. Ooops. Not my finest hour as a parent.
I have to say, I was so worn down and drained by the geeing up and motivating and redirecting him back to focus that I was seriously tempted to just take over and do it for him. Truly, wild horses had to hold me back, and I do confess to pushing him off the computer at one point and taking over by putting content headings and sections in to help him organise the information according to the marking scheme. Yes, yet another hilarious/tragic parenting moment for me.
I eventually checked myself and deemed my actions a bit crazed and stopped. Even so, it ultimately became a heavily supervised process, handholding him the entire way through to see a satisfactory outcome.
Seriously, it was so frustrating to watch him want to give up so quickly. It was mildly worrisome too at how I also wanted to give up as I mock prayed to god to save me from this parenting tedium! And there you have it. Like mother like son. The pattern revealed itself to me in all its ancestral glory, and a big mumma guilt moment – one of many – was reaching a crescendo. “OMG, has he learnt when the going gets tough to give up from me?!”
It made me reflect on my school career. I loved school. Learning came easy and I was such a swat and a good student. I would always over achieve, at least academically. I couldn’t understand my son. I knew he could do it; he knew the subject; why didn’t he just take my guidance and do it? It seemed a rude lesson that my son was not me! How many times do I need to be reminded of this? How many times have I lamented how much easier it would be if he just did what I said and agreed with me.
I really wanted him to succeed. I didn’t want him to experience the obvious embarrassment he would feel for such a thin effort once his teacher marked it or he saw what his fellow students handed in, but to rush in and rescue him, really wasn’t going to help him at all. Was I worried about how it reflected on me? Maybe this was a bigger deal for me than for him?
It’s a tough balance we walk as parents. We need to allow our children to forge their own paths and ways, and to make their own mistakes, and yet we have to guide them and help them too. We need to know when to step in and be the adult. Sometimes we get it wrong, we step in too early because we want to protect them and present them to the world in their best light, but is that more for us than them?
Some of my best lessons and truest self realisations have come from my biggest failures and humiliations – this one included. I don’t regret them. I reflect and learn from them. And this is the best learning I can model for my son, that is, the ability for self-reflection; for seeking personal insights; to learn self-acceptance and continually evolve towards my best. Which means, next time, giving positive guidance from a distance, detaching from the outcome (the mark isn’t important, it is the learning process) and accepting my son and loving my son for who he is as he grows, evolves and learns about himself. And loving the each moment, the good and not so good.
Much love. Sarah
Sarah Tolmie is a Life & Love celebrant, coach, pastoral carer and consultant assisting people to celebrate, navigate, grow and heal through all their life & love transitions. Her practice focuses on love & relationships, families & children; life success & fulfilment;, illness, death & grief. As a Celebrant Sarah create profound and meaningful ceremonies for all life & love events. Sarah is also a Laughter Yoga Practitioner. You can visit her website new.sarahtolmie.com.au and receive her Daily Love updates on her Facebook page at Sarah Tolmie – Life & Love.