It was a rough morning. Your dad was at an early morning meeting, so the breakfast routine was all on me. Six kids to feed, make sure they got dressed appropriately for the unpredictable fall weather, and then get them in the car for school drop-off for the oldest four. These mornings never go smoothly and I wake-up wondering what particular drama might unfold in the hour between when you all get up and when I drop you off.
Today that drama involved a series of wardrobe issues you were unhappy about. The shoes didn’t fit right without socks, but you didn’t want to wear socks. So you decided to wear the boots, but you could only find one of them. You wanted to wear the belted sweater, but you didn’t want it belted. You couldn’t find your hairbrush. Your brothers said something less than helpful about your pants. You were grumpy, stomping around the house, the last one in the van. It was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day, if you know what I mean.
So we drove to school and as you all unpiled– clown-car style– out of the van, I saw the panic in your eyes.
“Mom, I forgot my backpack.”
I instantly did a mental checklist of what was in that backpack. You didn’t forget lunch. You didn’t have homework last night. No library books or permission slips. It was basically an empty bag, so I figured today would be a good day to learn some personal responsibility. I wasn’t going to fix your mistake.
I saw you walk up to the school with slumped shoulders. It was a rough morning. But sometimes it takes rough mornings for us to learn some of our most important lessons.
Can I tell you something, sweet girl of mine? I have no idea if I did the right thing.
I remember occasionally calling my mom from school to ask her to bring my forgotten math book. I remember her coming when she could and sometimes realizing she wasn’t going to be able to help me because she had a life of her own. I remember lots of times I didn’t call, just learned how to take responsibility for what I forgot to do.
How did my mom know? How did she know when to come and when to let me sit with the consequences of my choices? How do I know today if I’m doing something that will help you learn how to be a responsible adult or if I’m scarring you for life by not helping you?
I don’t know. That’s the truth.
As your mom, I try to do my best to support you in the ways that help set you on a path towards responsibility and a healthy life. And I want you to always feel 100% certain that I am FOR you and love you. I want you to know you can trust me. Every day brings a thousand opportunities to communicate to you either, “You’ve got this! You can handle your life and figure out how to work through your mistakes.” OR, “I’ve got you! You don’t have to face this world alone.” It’s a parent’s job to navigate those choices and figure out when to offer grace and when to let you experience the natural consequences of your actions.
Those early years of your life were mostly grace. I cushioned your falls (literally and figuratively), coached you when you weren’t sure what to do, distracted and diverted when you were intent on making bad choices. There was discipline too, but the stakes were low as I controlled most elements of your life. Your adult years won’t be like that. I won’t be there to debate your grades with your college professor, apologize to your landlord for your late rent or try to smooth things over when you mishandle a work project. You will be fully responsible for those moments of your life. My job is to gently hand the responsibility for your life over to you with love and a lot of wisdom. I need to help you become the kind of woman who is ready for that responsibility.
Maybe today will be a day you remember having to learn that Mom won’t always be there to remind you to grab what you need for the day. Hopefully that will be the reminder you need to teach you responsibility. Maybe today will be a day you remember learning you can’t count on me and you feel like I abandoned you. I don’t know. I know there will be a million more times for me to help you learn both that I love you and want your best AND that your choices will largely determine the kind of life you have. There will be a million more times for me to fail you and a million more times for us to rebuild. A million more times for you to learn you are stronger than you thought and wiser than you knew.
I’m proud of you. I saw the resolve in your eyes as you knew you’d have to face the day under less than ideal circumstances. I’m excited to hear how you walked through your challenges today with bravery and strength. Sweet girl, I am in this with you for the long haul. I am not seeing you as my little girl, forever frozen in time, but as a future adult—full of possibilities and potential. I’m proud of you today and excited about the woman you can become as you learn how to handle the difficult struggles this world will throw at you. I may not always support you in the ways you want me to, but I am always behind you, loving you, wanting your good.