I have calculated it out. It is a scientifically and mathematically sound procedure. I know the daily count of times I hear “MOM!” yelled from somewhere around our home or property. Two hundred and eighty nine. Some days a few more, some days a few less.
Many of these are attached to a
demand request for something. Mom! Can you get me a cup? Mom! Do we have any more string? Mom! Where is the tape? Mom! What time is it?
Mom. Mom? Mom!
Sometimes the calls are simply followed by a statement. Mom! I have four dollars under my bed. Mom. The cat is missing. Mom. I peed the bed. Mom.
Then there are the times that the kids are just needing an answer they figure I might own. Mom! Do you think my lizard ever thinks about his mom? Mom? Is it going to rain tonight? Mom? What are we doing tomorrow? Mom? Why is water see-through?
Mom. Mom. Mom. Mom. MOM!
Please understand. This is not a complaint. I realize that there are many who long to be called Mom and cannot. I acknowledge that some used to be called Mom and a tragedy took that little voice away. Every single time that I hear it called is a reminder of the fortune that I have in this moment in time.
But sometimes – every so often – I need to flee the scene.
Today was that day for me. By 6:30 pm I left them to fend for themselves and found a corner outside where they couldn’t find me. My “Mom!” count was reaching its limit and I knew that I needed some input before I could output any more. For me, that looks like some time by myself with no noise and no chaos. For you, perhaps that looks like a bike ride, a bubble bath, or a call with a friend. I hid in my corner for just long enough to come back to a point of equilibrium and then headed back to deal with the chaos I knew I’d find.
Let’s be clear and precise. When I fled the scene, my oldest was making a fort with blankets I didn’t know we had from a hammock she hung from the ceiling of her room and a bunk bed post. The middle child was in a pile of crumpled paper in the middle of the living room trying to figure out an origami design, frustrated and grumpy. The youngest was playing with a friend doing something involving crayons and the piano. I didn’t know a friend was coming over. In short, chaos took up residence.
When I returned to the scene ready for combat, I realized that the kids might not actually NEED me as much as I thought they did. They had found a recipe for squash egg puffs that were baking in the oven and made with garden picked squash and fresh coop collected eggs. The crayons were picked up and the piano keys were still white. The boy had figured out his origami design and the crumpled paper was oddly and miraculously picked up.
Could it be? Is it true? Could it possibly be true?
Do my kids do better with LESS parenting?
Erika Myers, family therapist, in an article written on Good Therapy explains the concept clearly. She, among other parenting researchers, calls it benign neglect. “Practicing benign neglect as a parent is not about abdicating responsibility, ignoring limits, or letting go of all boundaries. On the contrary. It is about creating clear limits and boundaries, which all children need, yet allowing for enough freedom within those limits for true learning to occur.” Check out the full article here.
Here is what I know is true, or at least think is true, or at least I wonder if it is true.
When I am readily available to throw out a line and rescue them, they will immediately take it and rely on it. Consequently, they learn that “MOM!” will clean their rooms if they leave them messy. Mom will get them some water when they’re thirsty and Mom will find their missing shoes.
Mom will do it for me, so I don’t need to learn.
Mom can. Mom will. Leave it for Mom.
Maybe what our kids, or at least MY kids, need is a little less me and a little more them. Perhaps they need the opportunity to do it themselves, search out their own answers, and pull over a stool to reach their own water cups.
Maybe they need to learn that they are capable humans.
I’m not suggesting we bring down the “Mom” count. Believe me – I really do love the way it hits my ears about 75% of the time. Instead, let’s be mindful of the way we respond.
Suggest they try it on their own. How about you go and get yourself a cup, sweet girl?
Remember to answer with a question. What do YOU think your lizard thinks about?
Engage their statements with interest. Thank you for telling me where the cat is, darling boy!
Most of all, let us remember that they do need us. They need us to love them, understand them, listen to them, and hug them.
But maybe they don’t need us to do it all for them.