A few weeks ago, I did one of the hardest things I have ever done as a mom, so far.
I listened to my 11- year- old son cry on the phone and beg me to pick him up at the sleep-away camp we had sent him to, a camp he had reservations about attending from the start. He even went so far as to tell me that he was surprised his phone was not broken because of all the tears that had fallen on it. I kept thinking to myself, “Buddy, this hurts me more than it hurts you.” I have always been my children’s soft place to land and it killed me to sit there and listen to him cry. So many times during that night (and the two preceding nights), I wanted to grab my keys and drive the three and half hours there in the middle of the night to pick him up and rescue him from what he thought of as a horrible experience.
Why didn’t I? Because he wasn’t in any physical or emotional danger, he was simply homesick. Because my son is growing up and it’s time for me to start transitioning from a constant soft place into another role. Now, I need to start preparing my son for life outside of our home. I realized that I only have six short years with him living under my roof.
Six years to give him a foundation that ensures he’s not a life-sucking drain on society.
That’s not to say that I should change overnight from being Carol Brady to Mommie Dearest. It just means that my role needs to incorporate sometimes being the one that challenges my son a little more and pushes him out of his comfort zone because if I don’t, who will?
So, from now on, I won’t always be there to help him with the laundry. If he can create an entire fictional world in Minecraft, he can figure out the correct button to push on the washer to make sure his clothes are washed in cold water. Having trouble in school because you don’t understand the assignment? Get on your computer and email your teacher on your own. It’s better she hears from you anyway because math was never my strong suit and I could cause more harm than good.
And, while my son might be happy with the idea of living at home for the rest of his life, I am not.
My job is to ensure that he has all the skills in order to successfully make it on his own in the adult world…that includes knowing that your parents will not always be there to pick you up or bail you out. Some things you just have to learn the hard way.
After the first three nights, I think my son figured out that no amount of crying was going to bring us over to rescue him. At that point, we actually started hearing about the great things he was doing at camp and the fun times he was having. After camp was done, we had a long conversation about all the things he learned about himself and we made sure to point out that he had learned he could survive without us. That, while his father and I would always be there for him, he didn’t NEED us all the time. That he’s stronger than he knows.