Maybe We Shouldn’t Pave The Road Ahead For Our Kids

help our kids too much

How Much Help For Our Kids is Too Much Help

We both sat at my desk with bated breath, a little afraid to open the email that would tell us what teacher she would have for the next nine months.

At that moment, it seemed critically important. I had my mom speech all lined up in my head ready to roll out if the news was bad. And in my heart, I feared it was.  

There were four teachers that were a possibility, and she had a running list, as did all of her friends about which one she wanted and in what order. Everyone wanted one special teacher, usually the one their siblings had, and everyone didn’t want to get stuck with one particular teacher, the one who yells in the halls and had a reputation for being mean.

I am so embarrassed to say, but I did find myself praying the whole morning that she would get the teacher who was number one on my own list, and thereby have a wonderful year and learn and grow and be happy.  

That’s all we want, right? For our kids to be happy. And it seems an elusive goal. It seems like I give them everything they need to be happy, and it always falls short. No matter what I give, what I do, how special I make things – it always falls just a little short. It’s almost like I am hoping for the ultimate happiness and gratitude, and they always want just a little bit more.

I’m an educated woman. I know that you can’t make someone else happy, and that you can’t pave the road ahead for your kids so there are no bumps or unforeseen danger.  

But I still let myself get sucked in and try to make sure I do everything in my power to pave the way. Consciously and unconsciously, I’ll admit it, I do.  

I’m actually uncomfortable watching her, or any of my kids, struggle against their own personalities.Click To Tweet

When I see other kids around mine, who just assume they will get whatever they want and don’t seem to appreciate the bountiful life their parents have given them, it makes me cringe. They look spoiled and privileged, and as an outsider they are super annoying to be around. Am I doing that to my kids? Am I giving them everything that I feel like I didn’t have growing up? Am I becoming a hyper mom involved in all their social planning and school planning and life setting because I don’t want to see them unhappy?

I was telling my teenager about how happy his sister was about her teacher, and how happy I was as well because she was going to have a great year. His response wasn’t the same as mine. While I thought that my daughter was always on edge and scared of everything, and that this teacher was warm and loving and safe and would allow her to be comfortable and give her room to learn and grow – he thought she would do better out of her comfort zone.  

“She needs to know she’s ok in situations where she isn’t comfortable all the time,” he said. And he is totally right. But I don’t have the courage to want that for her. I like to see her safe, and happy and calm. I’m actually uncomfortable watching her, or any of my kids, struggle against their own personalities.

As parents I know logically what my job is and I think I do it well for the most part. I try to raise strong, caring, respectful, good people of the world. I try to make sure they are nice to other kids and respectful to adults and to their parents. I try to make them follow the rules of society and know that there are limits, while still instilling in them the feeling that they can achieve and do anything through hard work and perseverance.

But I also don’t want to watch them struggle. I don’t know if it’s the fact that I’m an older parent, and I had my kids later, but I hate watching them be unhappy. So much so that at times I try to fix things I probably shouldn’t. I send that email to the teacher, or I talk to the coach on the side – all the while convincing myself I am not “that mom.”  

Even so much as telling the teacher or the coach I am not “that mom.” The mom we all know. The ones who paves that road ahead so their kids never have to make a decision for themselves, or trip and stumble on anything, or make a mistake. A coach recently told me that he wishes that all the moms were as reasonable about their kid’s sports future as I was, and I felt like that was one of the best compliments I had ever gotten. “Wow, he sees how cool and chill I am about my kid!” It’s pathetic. I am a grown woman. Why the hell do I care that a coach thinks I am a reasonable parent, and I can’t validate my parenting skills on my own. Pathetic.

This past year my teenager has challenged me a lot. She has made a bunch of mistakes, and we have worked through the consequences. While it shocked me that my baby had turned into a teenager who could make mistakes and missteps in her life, I also learned to be more flexible. In my heart I know I want these mistakes to happen now, while my kids are at home and I can help them navigate the responses and consequences. I don’t want them to make their first mistakes or meet their first problems when they are young adults on their own, and have no experience on how to handle things. That sounds like bad parenting to me.

But watching them live through their mistakes, and bad teachers, and break ups is so physically and mentally painful to me I know that I try to avoid it at all costs.

I am not proud to admit, that when my youngest daughter opened her email and got the teacher of her dreams, I was as happy as she was, but it is my truth.
I am not proud to admit that I want the road ahead to be paved and happy for all my kids all the time, but I do.
I want them to be happy and I want to witness them being happy.
I’m honest even though I know that the bumps in the road are probably the more important ones and the ones they need to navigate over to become self-sufficient adults.
I just don’t want to watch them go over all those bumps.


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