It's snowing today. Over 10 centimetres of the white stuff will be falling by this afternoon. When my thirteen-year-old son was getting ready to leave for school this morning, I asked if he would be wearing his winter boots today. He kinda shrugged while lacing up his old topsiders and asked, "Do I have to?"
My response: "It's up to you. If it were me I would wear my boots because my shoes and socks would be soaked all day, but hey, that's just me." He continued to lace up his summer shoes, smiled and left to jump on public transit. His $80 winter boots we bought together sat languishing at the doorway.
And I was good with it.
Bad mother? Awesome mother?
I've had a couple of similar scenarios this winter with my newly minted teen, both about wearing appropriate winter coats, putting on a hat or making sure he has is gloves. I sounded like a nag. But, isn't that what a mother's job is? To be the voice of reason for those who don't have the common sense yet to take care of themselves properly?
Each time ended with voices raised and a power struggle. It stressed me out. But was it the "right" thing to do?
I emailed my awesome friend, mom of two teens and parenting expert Alyson Schafer who has such a great perspective on raising kids, for help. Her response to me was this: I would stop asking a child of 13 all of these questions — he can manage all of these things on his own at this age. On average kids get 200 compliance requests a day like this — it makes them crazy...
If you say "You know what...I realize I have been in your face about stuff that I actually know you can manage on your own, from now on — I trust you to dress yourself for the weather. I won't mention coats and mitts again — you're becoming a young man and I enjoy watching you grow and flourish."
It takes time though — he needs to miss the bus, be cold and get his feet wet. And he needs to see that when he makes a mistake it doesn't get you upset —don't own his problems or try to teach him from his mistakes — let him sit with the problem and do his own learning.
Don't make this common parenting error, which is having some emotional response to the situation which the child can detect and therefore they continue knowing it bugs/irks you.
Which brings me back to this morning and letting my son leave for school in a pair of summer shoes. He tested me and I didn't freak. He will be trudging through snow and have wet feet all day at school. I said my part and let him make his (stupid) choice. What do you think? Mother of the Year? Or Bad Mom's Club?
What would you do in this situation?