Let Them Do the Right Thing

You can’t teach your kids everything. It is one of those strange mom thoughts that you have to sometimes sit down and repeat to yourself. I cannot teach my kids everything. Our mother instincts tell us we are the protector. We are the feeder. We are the everything that will make our kids who they are and keep them alive. Sometimes, though, we just need to sit back and let them develop into who they will be.

birthday presentsIn the past few months, Riley has suddenly entered the world of children’s birthday parties. Apparently late winter is a popular time to have a child. I wasn’t quite prepared for this myself. What is the proper protocol for these? At what age do they go to parties on their own? What will I have to talk about with the other moms? Is this something I need to budget for now? In the midst of my self-inflicted anxiety, I momentarily forgot that I should probably check in with Riley about how she was feeling about all of this. The first invitation was a whirlwind of happiness for Riley. She eagerly showed me the card and talked about what her friend described would happen at the party. I almost didn’t notice the half smile and quick handoff of the second invitation.

Almost.

Uh-oh. It was time to go into full open-ended mom questioning mode.

“Riley, you got another birthday invitation. What will you do at that party?”

“Leave me alone, Mom.”

Uh-oh. My mom instincts were on full alert now.

“Who’s party is it?”

Silence.

We pulled into the drive of Maddie’s daycare, where I saw a fellow daycare mom and friend, who also happens to be the mom of Riley’s best friend.  As I hoped, she gave me just the insight I needed about what was going on. The day before when she was picking up her daughter, Riley had been very upset. At school that day, the birthday girl announced that she would be handing out invitations to her party the next day. She then, in front of the whole class, named each child in the class as an invitee to that party. Each child, except for Riley. In fact, I found out later that the lack of invitation had been quite pointed.




I’ve heard the term “mama bear” a lot. I’ve always thought it was a really silly term. I now am a firm believer that it is absolutely appropriate. In my four mothering years, I’ve felt a lot of crazy emotions. But this time, I felt exactly like a mama bear. I wanted to puff myself up, tower over this four-year-old birthday girl and put her directly into her place. How dare she hurt my child.

This, of course, was completely irrational. I know this girl. I like her a lot. Her parents are great. She was acting just like any other four-year-old girl. But, these rational thoughts were the furthest thing from my mind.

Again, I needed to remind myself that I should be checking in with Riley. This was a huge social learning opportunity for her.

left outEach night at dinner, I ask the girls the same two questions to spur dinner conversation: what made you happy today, and what made you sad? This gives me a pretty well-rounded idea of how their day went. Well, Riley’s day anyway. Maddie is still hard to decipher. This night, the latter question was key. Riley let me know the whole story about the announcement of the invitations and elaborated, telling me how she felt about this girl’s close relationship with her best friend. The two matters seemed closely related to Riley, and both were troubling to her. The drama was not something I had expected till middle school. I suppose it’s true that girls “mature” early. We continued to talk and process through how she would handle the situation. At first, she was adamant that she would not be attending the party. The birthday girl didn’t want her there, after all. By the end of the conversation, she landed on the idea that she would talk to the birthday girl about it. It was an open-ended statement, and I was worried about what that conversation might look like.

That afternoon, when I picked her up from daycare, I asked her how it went.

“Mom, I told her how I felt, and then I gave her a big hug.”

We pulled out of the drive, and I put my sunglasses on, hiding the tears of pride. Sometimes taking the backseat in your child’s life is hard. We love our kids, and when they hurt, we hurt. We want to fix it. But, learning how to handle their own situations is a big part of their childhood. When we sit back and allow them to learn, they may just do the right thing.

When we sit back and allow our kids to learn, they may just end up doing the right thing.… Click To Tweet