Thursday, June 5, 2008

Helping or Enabling?

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My four oldest children are attending golf camp this week. They spend the morning golfing and then get lunch at the pool with time to swim.

Each evening before bed, I have been helping the 6 yr. old gather her things and put them all in a backpack to be ready to go the next morning. She needs a towel and swim suit, sunscreen and floaties. We also lay out the clothes she'll be wearing and search for her shoes. (They seem to disappear each and every day. Must be the shoe thief.)

All of this takes about half an hour, and if you knew the 6 yr. old you would know why. Let's just say she's highly distractable and not use any letters that come at the beginning of the alphabet and spell a word that means the opposite of subtract. 'Kay?

Since I knew what we went through last night to get all of her things together, I was surprised when the very hunky golf pro called to tell me that she didn't have her swim suit!

Not very long ago I would have let her miss the swimming in order to teach her a lesson about responsibility and accountability and the fact that her mother won't always be there to bail her out.

But then I remembered that she is just six years old. And very distractable. And if your mother won't be there to bail you out, then who on earth will?

I thought of my MaddieLynn being 13 years old and how in a few short years she may be a newlywed or a new mother. I thought of her needing help or advice or even making a mistake. I wondered if she would think of calling me or if she would just skip it because she wouldn't want a lecture about responsibility and accountability.

Then I loaded the little ones in Hogzilla and took the swimsuit. And I didn't say a work about any "ilities".

And now here I am wondering if I was helping or enabling. Was I helping her to enjoy her childhood and trust that her mother will do whatever is possible to be there for her? Or was I enabling her to be irresponsible and count on others to follow behind her fixing her mess ups?

What do you think? What would you have done?


Brenda on the S OR Coast said...

Ah, the crazy dichotomy of motherhood. I'm thinking that you did the right thing. You were merciful, just as you want her to be merciful to others who make mistakes, just as we want God to be merciful to us.

However, if she forgets her swimsuit every day and you sense that she feels no urgency to remember it because you will be there to bail her out... then, I think some time watching the others swim might be helpful. Know what I mean?

At this point, it sounds like you were being helpful! =)

Kim said...

I agree with Brenda. Extending grace based on your own mother's intuition is what makes mothering such a blessed and beautiful thing. And of course if you see a pattern you will act swiftly and allow logical consequences to play their role.

Sweet post :)

Brenda said...

If I understand the story correctly, YOU helped her pack, right? If I had helped her pack and it still wasn't there, I would have taken it to her. She is only 6. If you had laid out that it was her resonsibility, then that would be different. She's never gotten ready for golf camp before, right? How was she to know? I would have taken it.

There will be plenty of times when natural consequences will show her a lesson and you won't have to. My daddy brought me poster board to school in 7th grade when I forgot and my friends all thought I was lucky I had a dad who could bring something to me in the middle of the day. (He worked shift work).

Liz said...

I agree, as a fellow "highly distractable" youngster, I was always breathing a sigh of relief when my Dad would answer my cry for help b/c he had mercy on me and my mother gave the "-ilities" speech! She is only 6! You are a sweet mom!

Elizabeth said...

What would I have done...the wrong thing that would include yelling and frustration on both our parts...YOU did the right thing!! YEA! Hey we are still learning and growing around here..I often wonder if the skills and things I yearn to teach my children will be happy memories that last or burdensome ones that condemn? I pray it is the happy! Hey I do know if I start my day in the WORD I "react" so much better!!

YAY camp!
OH and do you still smock dresses for your girls?? Remember that is how I "found" your blog!!

Miche said...

I would have to say you did the right thing, since she is 6 and you helped her pack, it could be just an honest mistake in not realizing it was missing. If it started to happen all the time,then missing a lesson might help her remember, but overall, she still seems young enough to warrant a few "bail outs" still. :)

Michelle said...

I think that you did the right thing. If I had been close by I too would have brought the swim suit, because it probably would've been fault that it didn't get into her bag.

My kids get so tired of me asking and reasking if "We have everything," when we leave the house. They wouldn't have let me off the hook.

The Estrogen Files said...

I'd have taken it to her this time and then reminded her that SHE is responsible for remembering it next time. My 6 yr old is much the same way, but gets better with more reminding, I think.

You did a great job, no matter if it was a help or an enable. Like you stated, she is only 6.

Shari said...

I, too, have a little one that is very distractable and forgets what he's doing every two minutes and I have to keep reminding him to stay on task so he won't forget the most precious items each day for school! How's that sentence? Ha! :) If he forgets every-now-and-then I will help him out, but if he forgets continuously about the same item, etc. then we do what we call a "teacher's lesson" and work on it. When we start to see change in the particular area he forgets then we reward him and keep going. This works for us! And sometimes we call "teacher's lessons" an "instruction time" if it includes more than a teaching lecture, etc.

Lindsey said...

I think that all she will remember, as a 6yr old, is that she accidentally forgot her swimsuit and her mom did a sweet favor for her so she could continue to enjoy one of her first days of summer golf camp.

If my mother could, she would help me out. Sometimes she would get annoyed but if she could and/or I absolutely needed whatever it was, she would bring it. I learned a lot about compassion from these acts of hers.

Denise said...

Well.....I am 30ish and MY mom STILL bails me out!!!! I agree with the helped a sweet girl out. Now if it becomes a habit, that would be different. Delaney forgot her backpack ONE time all year, and that wasn't even until like Feb. so I figured we were doing pretty good. I went back home, picked it up, and ran it back into the school, with baby in arms and wearing my PJs no less!! Sometimes it is just part of the job of being a Mom, even when it is inconvenient! Just add that to the list of stories to tell her husband some day.

Aunt LoLo said...

I agree with the comments here! You're had time, and I hope she appreciated it. If it starts to be a habit...then maybe Mommy will be "busy" and she'll just have to watch her friends swim. It goes both ways.

Happy face said...

I wish I was always so compassionate and not lecturing about -ilities. Especially since I'm often the "distractable" one.

Lene said...

Wow, my children and I thank you for sharing this with us. I really appreciate the perspective on them needing someone to come to in the future.

Amy said...

I read this post a couple of days ago and couldn't wait to get home so I could read the comments. First of all it is a very sweet post. Makes me want to hug my mom and glad I'm a mom... all at once.

I agree with those that say our parenting is a picture of how God deals with us as His children. Grace is a wonderful thing, isn't it? :)

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