By Bethany Meyer
School is the place to be right now. My kids are experiencing magic at their school. Teachers know and celebrate the students. Curriculum is rigorous. Technology is embraced. Design based thinking is explored. Character education is emphasized. Community outreach is in place. The school they attend was recently featured in a magazine in celebration of its Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership. My husband and I immediately shared a parenting high five, confident that our four sons will eventually grow up to be kind, independent thinkers … able to solve their own problems and eventually move out of our house and contribute to society.
The director of this innovative program has a son in class with one of my boys. My husband and I recently talked with him about the CEL program and what it looks like inside the classrooms of our youngest children. At its core, it’s not about creating miniature business minds. It’s about encouraging kids to take intellectual risks, asking them to experiment, allowing them to fail, then equipping them with the tools to pick themselves up and move forward.
“It looks like parents not saving their kids,” he told us. And we smiled. Because don’t we all know those parents? Helicopter parents. The ones who hover around saving their kids from experiencing discomfort in their young lives.
A week after speaking with him, I stood on campus. Strategically placed between the locker room and the soccer field. The director hurried past on his way to teaching a class, recognized me, and greeted me warmly.
“What are you doing here?” he asked.
Behind my back, I clutched the pair of white socks that I had dropped everything to run out and purchase for my 12-year-old-son, who absolutely had to have them for a game that would begin in T-17 minutes. I lifted the socks up for him to see. And hung my head in shame.
“I’m failing your program,” I announced, “and saving my son.”
That’s when I realized … I’m one of those parents.
I save my kids.
Every morning when I lay out their clothes for school, I save them.
When I drive them to school every day so they can sleep later than riding the bus would allow, I save them.
When, despite my repeated reminders, they forget their gloves on a cold day, I reach into my handbag to extract and hand over my very favorite pair of running gloves that will never be seen or heard from again…
When I sort, fold, and put away their laundry…
When I labor in the kitchen over a delicious home cooked meal, then place buttered noodles in front of one picky eater and cereal in front of the other picky eater…
When I remind them that tomorrow is library day and tell them where their library books are scattered in various parts of our crowded house…
When I intervene with his brothers on behalf of my third son every time he cries because I feel this boy’s heartbreak so keenly…
There I go again…..
Saving them at every turn.
I do things for my kids that go well beyond the scope of what is necessary. Am I in good company? You bet I am. Do I do it because I love them? Absolutely. Is it consistent with my goal to raise them to be kind, independent thinkers, who are able to solve their own problems and eventually move out of my house and contribute to society? Not in the least.
I am not doing my children or myself any favors by saving them to the extent that I do. So I made a conscious decision to be more aware of my behavior. And I made a silent commitment to encourage them to be more mindful of their behavior.
I didn’t have to wait long for my first opportunity to be a parent who doesn’t always save her children. So goes it in a house with four boys. One day, I tripped on my oldest son’s science textbook, abandoned on my living room rug in the middle of the school day.
Uh-oh. He forgot his book.
I pulled out my phone, prepared to email him that I was on my way to school for a meeting, and that I’d drop his textbook at the front desk for him.
But I caught myself.
“Stop it, Bethany. Stop saving him,” I said aloud. I looked at his textbook, shook my head, and proceeded to the front door without it.
Instead I texted my husband, “I refuse to drive our son’s textbook to school. I win at parenting!” Because some days the most valuable lesson can be found in the place we least expect it. In my case, a forgotten textbook on the floor.
Later that evening, I pulled my oldest son away from his brothers and into the living room. I pointed at his textbook, still lying on the floor, and crossed my arms. He looked at me quizzically.
In a quiet voice, I said, “I had a meeting at school earlier today, and I could have taken this book with me. But I chose not to. And it’s not because I don’t love you. It’s because I do love you. But I have to stop saving you. Otherwise, you’ll never learn to save yourself.”
He remained unusually quiet.
“What do you have to say for yourself?” I asked.
“That textbook is supposed to stay home,” he answered with a shrug.
That’s not important.
What is important is that I continue my effort to raise kind, independent thinkers. Boys who will take intellectual risks, experiment, fail on occasion, and persevere.
Boys who, I hope, will grow into resilient men.
And, if I stay the course, they may actually move out of my house. And contribute to society.
For now, school is where they belong. That’s where the magic is happening.
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Have you considered the role resilience plays in your child’s readiness to navigate the world beyond school? How do you see it in play both in your home and at school?
Bethany Meyer lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their four young sons. Her work has been featured in the Parents section of the Huffington Post. Read more of Bethany’s work on her blog, I Love Them the Most When They’re Sleeping, and connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.