Eldest is a very level-headed, mature young man for just turning 18. Even so, has his moments of impulsive behavior. Like going off to the Renaissance Festival with my little sister. And buying a–hahum–very expensive trinket.
“But it looks cool. It is cool.”
Yes, I can appreciate his passion for medieval swords and gauntlets and throwing knives and chain mail and leather and jousting and turkey legs on a stick and, and, and…
Lord, why did I encourage him to hang with his aunt on his first week off of work and college?
Oh yeah, because I thought he would maintain the tight grip on his checkbook he’s proven to have. I guess it gets easy to assume that good kids will always make good choices. Even when history proves that great kids can let their passions override their level-headedness.
“But Dad bought…”
To which Dad said, “Yes, but I have a job and can afford to buy what I want.”
It was the classic Dad/Son headbutting moment. The one where the dad knows nothing, even if he knows everything and the kid rolls his eyes and swallows his guilt, but insists that he does have a job and can afford his newest collectible.
The easiest thing about being a parent is knowing all the dumb stuff we did. We spent our money in the wrong places and on the wrong things, hung out with the wrong kids or egged the wrong car. We were dumb and young and made poor choices on occasions. Heck, we still do, only we’re just a bit older and grayer and hopefully wiser.
Which is why we expect so much from our kids. We don’t want them to make the same mistakes we made. But the thing about parenting–really, the only true and honest thing about parenting–is that kids need to make mistakes. It’s how they learn.
It’s how we learned.
So, while we carry all the worry for our kids no matter their ages, at some point we have to sit back and let them experience life for themselves. We have to allow them to make mistakes. All the dumb mistakes in the world. Just not the life-changing ones.
And that’s what I’ve learned most about raising kids. There are two kinds of mistakes. The dumb ones and the earth-shaking ones. Eldest went to the faire. He bought a sword for more money than he should have. He didn’t get anyone pregnant, and he didn’t drink and drive. His mistake is merely dumb.
Or not. Only time will tell if he actually thought out his money situation and felt he could handle the burden of spending the money the way he did. Heck, he lives on campus with a meal plan. Worst case scenario is he can’t go to Buffalo Wild Wings until spring. He certainly won’t starve and he has a roof over his head.
As much as I’d love to control his every move under the advisement of my over-protective-mom-gene, I’m not going to. I’ll have to settle for parenting from afar.
Are you a helicopter-parent, or do you allow your kids to mess up and learn from it? What tips do you have for knowing when to step in and enforce the family law? When is it okay to give a bit more freedom than you otherwise want to?
Curious minds want to know.