I like to swoop in and help. I think I have always been like this even before becoming a mother. I like to give, fix and solve.
When my children were little, it was simple, they needed me do everything for them. There were flickers of my help becoming redundant quite early on, as is normal. She learned to button her coat, he learned to tie his shoe laces, they learned to feed themselves, get dressed, take the bus to school… independence gets picked up slowly along the way.
I suppose, for me, helping my children is partly wrapped up in the perceived control I have as a parent, which I know is minimal. As my children have grown up (I actually have one adult now) my sense of purpose as a parent feels diminished in some ways.
Of course, they still want me to help, but there is no carte blanche. It is very much on their terms. They only want me when it suits them – selective help. And, of course, they have no interest in listening to my point of view.
So what do you when your help is unwelcome and you can see events unfold, not always for the best, before your eyes? Anyone that knows me may fall off their chair at this point, but I have been learning to use silence and distance. I’m not very good at this, but I have been honing these skills for the past seven years or so. I bite my lip and walk away, because when they need you for advice or something that goes wrong, they will come to you, and then you do get to swoop in and be the superhero.
Please note: I don’t actually want anything to go wrong for my kids, or anyone else’s, but shit happens sometimes and we all need someone to to turn to. In these moments Mother Nature is extremely clever. You don’t say ‘Ha Ha!!! I told you to do it my way”, “You should have asked me at the beginning” or “I knew this would happen” …you just smile, handle it and naturally enjoy the nanosecond of gratitude.
I was wondering how to exemplify this and, as if my magic, my 16 and a half-year-old son came into my study this morning. Since his last birthday he has wanted to change his cash point card into a debit card. I have said I would go to the bank with him and sort it out, but no, he wanted to do it.
His birthday was September, it is now April and there is still no debit card. Anyway last week, he has said he would call the bank to make an appointment. He finally called today, got an automated message and hung up. “Mummy” he said in a really fluffy tone that I haven’t heard since the last time he wanted something ”I can’t get through on the phone to make an appointment.”
“Have you followed the instructions?”
“Yes”, he replied, there was a pause and then: “Will you do it for me?”
I smiled inside and pick up the phone, resisting the temptation to say I could have done this six months ago.
To be clear, my son is super smart. He could have picked up the phone again and done it. But he wanted my help, and I wasn’t going to turn down the opportunity to give it. I navigated my way through the automated call and made him an appointment for this afternoon. Job done. “Thanks Mummy!” and off he goes, flashing me a gorgeous smile. That’ll do.
I know it is normal for the apron strings to loosen over the years and eventually be cut. And I certainly want my children to be equipped to deal with whatever comes their way – inconsequential or significant. But it is hard when, for a good decade or so, you have been the “go to” person for everything. I suppose children need to earn self-sufficiency, and I suppose I need to learn to wait until I’m asked for help.
I’m still a work in progress, how about you?