"I think you coddle him too much." Him being my 16 year old son; the keen observer of maternal behavior, my husband. I go into the bathroom and seethe, brushing my teeth with a ferocity that would horrify the faint of heart dentist. Gazing into the mirror I debate snappy retorts. "I coddle him?!" my internal warrior rants. "Well if I do, it's only because you're a dick." I spit. Too harsh. "Well if I do, it's only to make up for being so horrible to him the rest of the time." No wait; don't dilute the message. Instead as I step from the bathroom I simply hiss in my unsuspecting spouse's general direction: "I coddle everyone in this family!"
I really do. I'm not proud of it, and if for some reason presented with a random survey asking about it, I would surely check off the NO, I DO NOT CODDLE MY FAMILY with bold assurance. And, I would be deluding myself. The fact is, I probably do far too much for my family and this has gotten worse over the years instead of better. Perhaps it is guilt over my many past (and likely future) God-awful mother moments, perhaps it is an awareness of the fleeting nature of time. Sadder still to think it's because of middle age and a search for my own relevance...so I'm not going to give that one credence. No matter what the reason, the fact remains, I'm becoming a hard core enabler. I ferry forgotten lunches to school, I double check my almost 13 year old daughter's backpack for homework, I pay library fines, I make sure we are (almost) never out of CHEESE, for fck's sake, because the dog enjoys a slice of cheese before bed.
It's gotten out of hand.*
I don't think I am alone, either. I think there are others of me out there, who walk the tightrope of wanting our kids to be smart and capable and confident and compassionate and not having a goddamn clue how to get them there. I want them to know they can count on me AND on themselves; I don't want them to be afraid of trying, of failure, of success. Do we always let them learn the harsh consequence of choice the hard way? Do we let some things slide, so they learn flexibility? Do we show a softer side so they learn forgiveness? Do we laugh some things off as a "kids will be kids" moment, or take every opportunity to teach that little mistakes can lead to bigger ones?
I HAVE NO IDEA. For me, it changes day to day, scenario to scenario, and honestly depends sometimes on whether I'm working, have slept enough, or if that particular child has already ticked me off that day. I don't know if my children will think they were coddled or ignored more than they should have been. I just hope they know they were loved as much by their flawed, devoted mother as much as she could possibly bear. Yes, and by their (not really) dickish, non-coddling Dad, as well.
*Before anyone starts to fear my children are horribly spoiled, please refer to the hardass portion of my Six. There are chores and accountability in (balanced) abundance here. Promise.