Monday, June 23, 2014

Mom-ents of Truth

The other day, I caught up with an old colleague. We compared notes about the latest marketing trends and quickly moved into more personal territory. The last time we shared an office, our children (three total, his two and my one) were very little. Today, mine is wrapping up her second year of high school and his oldest has just finished college.

Like every conversation I have with parents these days, we were soon bemoaning the pressure we're all under (moms, dads and offspring alike). His take was a little different from mine. He seemed to put a lot of the blame on mothers.

Say what?!

That's right. Today's moms (he specifically said "moms") are helicopter parents. We enable our kids; we don't want them to feel any pain. Because of us, they are not resilient enough.

I see his point, but I don't think it's just moms. In certain socioeconomic groups (upper middle class), I think it's all parents. He may just notice it more with moms because, by and large, moms still do most of the hands-on childrearing.

Of course, this discussion led me to some soul-searching. Am I one of those moms? After this past weekend, I'm afraid I qualify as such. 

In a big way. 

To my daughter's credit, she has had a lot on her plate lately. The fourth and final (Wahoo!) quarter of sophomore year is wrapping up. So, there have been projects and essays, debates and quizzes, last minute reading assignments and ... of course ... finals. Her first test (a tough one), as well as a portfolio presentation for her photography elective, took place Friday.

She had also offered to help her riding instructor by making a slideshow about the stable for a fundraiser. The woman needed it Saturday, and — whether by necessity or not; we'll have to agree to disagree — my daughter started it Friday night. She pulled still photos and video clips together and edited the project in iMovie. Then, she finally (it was quite late) went to bed while the file "exported."

Rousing my overtired teen Saturday morning is never easy or particularly pleasant. It turned into a downright disaster when she realized that the file had crashed overnight and she needed to start over.

Here's a little math for you. She had to leave for the stable (she works there on the weekends) in twenty minutes. But, rebuilding the iMovie file would take about two hours. The solution to this equation? Drama and despair!

"Why did you wait until the last minute?" I asked her.

"It's not my fault!" she protested.

"Well, it's certainly not mine!" I protested back.

Wrong. Apparently it was indeed my fault (as so very much is) because her computer isn't good enough and who gave her the computer? Me. After much ranting and raving (and raging), I took things under control and declared that we would leave ... NOW ... for the stable and her job. Then, I would return home (no Zumba this morning, I guess), build the slideshow, and then drive it to the stable. She pouted most of the way there and left the car without much of a "good-bye." As planned, I drove back home and spent about an hour or so, building a new slideshow in iPhoto as well as locating, saving and exporting the one she had done in iMovie, as well as creating a separate file of photo jpegs, so that the instructor could create something herself if the other two solutions didn't work on her system.

After twenty-plus years giving presentations at conferences, I'm all about audio-visual redundancy and plan Bs.

I loaded the files onto a CD and drove it to my daughter's instructor's house; she had it in plenty of time for her event. I was the hero of the day (in my eyes at least). But, I know (and knew then too) that I had missed a teachable moment.

Or what I think of as a mom-ent of truth.

In hindsight, what I should have done is this. I should have given her a simple choice. She could (a) call the stable owner, explain that her slideshow project for the instructor was delayed and that she would be a couple of hours late for work. Or she could (b) call the instructor, explain that she had overcommitted and that she wouldn't be able to deliver as promised. In either case, she could say she was sorry (she truly was). She made a mistake (she really did). And she would think twice the next time.

I should've done that. But, I didn't. And consequently, if the current wave of critics is correct, my daughter will not grow up to be independent or responsible. I have made her life too easy.

But wait a minute, please. That's not why I did it. 

I did it, quite simply, because I could. There were commitments made and tasks to perform, and given the deadlines and available resources, it made sense for me to do exactly what I did. This was not so much the work of an overindulgent mother, as that of a skilled project manager.

When I see things that need to get done, I get them done. That's who I am. That's what I do. And whether I spoil my daughter or not (I do), and whether I missed an opportunity to teach her an important life lesson (I did), I like to think that I'm also setting a really good example.

There are worse things she could grow up to be than a person who follows through.

If you enjoyed this post, I invite you to order a copy of my new book Lovin' the Alien at 

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