Letting My Children Fail

When Jewel forgot her homework at school this week, I wanted to jumpout of bed and go pick it up for her. She was distraught at the prospect of being penalized for not completing her homework. But the reality of our lives right now is: Mommy is on bedrest. And no, honey, we can't call the neighbor to drive you back to school.

As a mom, I don't want my children to suffer. I want to bail them out of any difficulties and make everything easy for them. I would also like world peace, to always be caught up with the laundry, and to fit back into my wedding dress in time for my 10th wedding anniversary.

Alas, I have no magic powers. I must make my way using the tools I've been given: responsibility, integrity and hard work.

I need to give my kids these tools so they become responsible, self-sufficient human beings who learn from their mistakes and don't expect anyone else to take the blame.

So, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, Jewel calmed down enough to talk reasonably. She admitted that she'd made a mistake. I asked her if she thought anyone else should be inconvenienced for her mistake. She said "no, but I'm sure they wouldn't mind!" Which was probably true but also irrelevant.

The principle of the thing was that she needed to own up to her teacher and offer to make amends. The wrong thing would be to make excuses or try to get someone to bail her out. We brainstormed about how she could make it right.

"I'll stay in from recess and do it!" she volunteered, brightening at the thought.

I agreed this was a good idea and sent her off to fetch a snack while I emailed her teacher. When I was a kid there was no such thing as emailing the teacher--y'just had to show up the next day and take yer lumps.

Times have changed but the need for integrity and sterling character hasn't. Letting my kids experience the negative consequences of their actions is tough to do; but also necessary. One day they will be faced with the cruel reality that life isn't fair.

It's my job to prepare them for that inevitability now. If that means letting the consequences of their mistakes play out in real life, so be it.

One day I won't be around to solve all the problems, to fix the mistakes, to kiss the boo-boo's. The sooner they learn to work it out themselves, the better.

But for now, when they get home I'll be waiting with hugs, kisses, encouragement and brainstorming.