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we knew better but we did it anyway

Last Sunday.

A: how are things going over there?

L: the boys are good

L: they’re just waking up and i’m making them breakfast

L: and that’s when i hear your son say

L: ‘you guys, i made it thru the entire weekend with just 1 shirt’

A: i’m kinda scared for the rest of the story

L: so i ask him what he means

L: and he says ‘I forgot to pack shirts’

A: omg

A: he didn’t forget socks?

A: or a toothbrush?

A: or even a bathing suit?

A: he forgot to pack the entire category of shirts!

L: well, yes

L: but the good news is he didn’t seem too distraught

L: or distraught at all

L: and at least we were far enough away from home

L: so u couldn’t run right over with 5 fresh t-shirts

L: and solve the problem for him

A: at least :)

A: and glad i didn’t know

A: bc i definitely would’ve brought him shirts

L: good news tho

L: he probably won’t forget his shirts next time

L: i’d even bet the house on it

A: i’d bet something a little smaller than the house

A: but i appreciate your confidence in him learning the lesson

So this got us thinking.

It got Angie thinking about Ben wearing one shirt for the entire weekend.

It got Angie thinking she should have packed for Ben like she usually does.

It got Angie thinking she shouldn’t have been packing for Ben all these years.

But seriously, it got us both thinking about all the doing and the fixing we do on a regular basis. And about all the doing and the fixing we shouldn’t be doing on a regular basis.

This isn’t news. This isn’t the first time we’ve thought about the value of letting our kids forget to pack shirts or sit in unhappiness or boredom or deal with disappointment or regret. We’ve read The Blessing of a B minus and How to Raise An Adult. We know the trade-offs that come with focusing on happiness and making situations easy for our children at the expense of them not being able to roll with the punches.

Quick story to illustrate this point.

Throwing it back to 2014 when we received a letter from our school’s superintendent. We know, it’s shocking we remember the letter, but here’s why we do. The letter was about safety in the schools but also highlighted a new rule - no one can drop off anything at school for their kids. Anything. No lunch drop off for the kid who left his lunch in the fridge, no saxophone drop off for the kid who left her instrument right at the door, you get the point. The theory was that fewer people in and out of the schools would make them safer. Makes sense. But the last line of the letter was the one that stuck with us. Because the last line said something like ‘in addition to creating safer schools, not being allowed to drop shit off will teach your kids an important lesson about responsibility and consequences.’ Omg, the superintendent was giving us parenting advice! We were kinda offended, but secretly relieved. All of a sudden we didn’t have to be strong and say no to our kids, we could blame the new rule. But guess what? We couldn’t do it. We couldn’t let them sit in discomfort, or get a zero, or be reprimanded by the teacher, or miss a practice. What’s wrong with us? We knew better but we did it anyway. Ugh.

And this wasn’t the only time we knew better but didn’t do better.

There were the times we caved on the curfew we set because we didn’t want them to miss out on the fun.

There were the times we made them separate dinners just so they would eat even though it made us feel like short-order cooks.

There were the times we let them eat said separate dinners in front of the TV because they begged that their favorite show was on.

There were the times when we got just a little too involved in their social lives or sibling arguments.

There were the times we knowingly crossed the line and instead of gently helping them write the email, we wrote it for them (and maybe even sent it for them, shhhh).

All of these scenarios are pretty much variations on one theme.

The price we pay for short-term happiness.

So why is it so hard to stop fixing and bending and making things just right? And what is the big deal? So what if we cave and fix and bend? So what if we take the easy way out? Why does it matter?

We know the answer, even if we can’t seem to conjure it up when we need it.

We know that there’s value in being unhappy and uncomfortable and even bored, sometimes.

And we also know that feeling those feelings will teach our kids (and maybe us too) what they’re made of.

Like how to tolerate ripples in the pond.

And how to deal with life’s inevitable lemons.

Hi, 2020.

Only feels fitting to end with a hypocrisy alert.

7:32 pm Saturday night

L: i dropped the boys off and told them i’ll pick them up at 11pm

L: and i told charlie no sleepovers

L: so i made it easy for you

L: you’re welcome

A: you da best!

10:18 pm same night

L: i’m so tired

L: and charlie just asked me if he could sleep at jons house

L: and i want to say yes

L: bc i don’t want to get up and drive right now

L: so can u please remind me why i can’t cave on the sleepover

A: um, is this really happening?

A: didn’t we just discuss this and write a post about this?

A: and the value of the stupid ripple in the pond

A: and the value of being unhappy

A: sometimes

A: just go get the damn kids

9:09 am next morning

L: i’ll get the kids from jons in 20 mins… good?


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