My kids were bored, and I did not entertain them. I did not take them anywhere or buy them movie tickets or arrange for their friends to come over. I told them to find something to do.
When I asked them what they wanted for lunch, they weren’t ready to eat. So when they were hungry, I listed a few ideas that they could fix for themselves. They wanted me to do it for them. I didn’t. I told them I was sure they could handle it.
And I’ll be honest. I felt guilty about it.
I wondered if I was doing my job. You know, my mom job, the constant emotional and practical parenting work that leaves us moms exhausted at the end of every day.
Because the truth is that sometimes I measure my success as a parent by the extent of my weariness at the end of the day. Sometimes I rate myself as a mother by how much I personally sacrificed to make everyone happy that day.
I mean, if we went to the zoo in the morning, packed a picnic for lunch, hiked at the park all afternoon, stopped for ice cream on the way home, and squeezed in a quick date with friends at some point before I cooked their favorite dinner, then I was the most amazing mom ever, right? And if my kids were happy at breakfast time and at lunch time and at dinner time and at bedtime, if I made everyone happy all day long, then I totally rocked this mom thing.
But then I thought about what I DID do today.
I gave my kids an opportunity to use their imaginations, to create their own fun, and to manage their own time.
I did them a favor by letting them actually feel a void and then allowing them to resolve that discomfort all by themselves.
I gave them a chance to be independent young men in a safe environment and to gain confidence that they are capable human beings and to rest assured that they are on a path that will prepare them to take care of their own selves and their own families one day.
And at ages 11 and 13, that day is approaching much more quickly than I would like to believe.
Maybe I was actually a really good mom today. Maybe we moms feel guilty about way too much stuff. Maybe we’re trying too hard to create happy adults and shooting ourselves in the foot in the process. Life isn’t always happy, after all, and grownups need to be able to cope with life when it isn’t.
Maybe we are wearing ourselves out while inadvertently teaching our kids to expect others to fill their empty spaces – whether those are in their hearts or their minds or their stomachs.
Yikes. That’s a scary thought, right?
Ain’t nobody got time for working extra hard just to sabotage our own goals as parents. There are WAY too many other things to do to keep all the plates spinning. We don’t want to waste time shaping our kids into the opposite of what we want them to be, mostly to ease our own guilt and to secure their happiness in the moment, and then waste more time trying to un-create the selfish or entitled attitudes that we created.
Plus, it would be nice to salvage a few minutes to read a book every once in a while.
Really, reading an entire chapter in one sitting would be wonderful.
So I don’t feel so guilty anymore.
Maybe today was one of my better parenting days after all, and I didn’t even try so hard.
We can always pack a picnic for the park tomorrow.