Just a few minutes ago, my daughter called from the parking lot of a restaurant. She was supposed to be inside at a birthday party for her friend. Instead, she was sitting in the car in a panic. “I don’t have a pen,” she said.
“So?” I answered.
“I need a pen. I need to write on the card.” I’m not sure if she wanted me to bring her one, but I didn’t give her the opportunity to ask. “Go inside and ask the hostess for a pen,” I said calmly. “But everyone is inside and they will see me.”
If I’d told my mom I didn’t have a pen to write on a card when I was my daughter’s age, she would have been dead silent, a clear message to deal with it myself. But these days our kids tend to hold onto us with one hand, even as they reach into adulthood with the other. Like many parents, I’m much closer to my kids than I was to my own parents. But am I doing my kids a disservice by making them rely on me too much?
Ironically, my daughter recently told me I was treating my teenage son like a baby bird. She scolded me for packing a dinner for my son to take with him to a six-hour shift at work. It really made me think. I try not to be a helicopter mom, but should I be doing more to promote independence?
A new survey by AARP found parents today dole out twice as much advice and practical help to our kids as parents did in the mid-1980s. The message most of us parents have gotten is that we need to be involved parents. But are we too involved?
Recently, a mother of adult children told me she read an article when her kids were young and posted it on her fridge. It was called, “How to Guarantee Your Children’s Happiness.” The key to their happiness, the article said, was teaching them to do things for themselves. The mom said the article triggered a strong reaction in her. She stopped scrambling to help her kids get out the door for school in the morning and insisted they get ready on their own. Today, she has three high-powered kids at the top of their professions.
Meanwhile, many parents struggle to support dependent adult kids. If I keep on being mama bird, am I setting myself up to be one of those parents whose adult children call home for help at every stage of life?
All I know is that as a parent of a teen who’s about to go off to college within a year’s time, I find myself conflicted. I want her to know how to do laundry, make her own meals, stick to a budget, and find her own pens. Teens should know how to do all of that. But at the same time, I’m fighting the urge to tell her: What’s the hurry to grow up? Take your time.
So, fellow parents, do you think we’re doing too much for our kids? Have you made any effort to make your teens more independent? Where do you think the line is between being involved and being too involved?