This I Believe

Joan - El Dorado, Arkansas
Entered on December 15, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: parenthood

I believe that my goal as a parent is equip each child to leave the home after high school graduation and their 18th birthday capable of living independently. If the government considers my children old enough to decide at 18 to marry, to join the military, to be treated by the courts as adult, to pay taxes, – then I believe it is my responsibility as a parent to prepare them for that same deadline.

Through 30 years of dealing with children and teenagers, I believed I needed to love them enough to inconvenience them until they could conveniently take charge of their own behavior, their own school work, their own finances – their own lives.

As babies, I held their tiny hands when they struggled to balance and take their first tentative steps.

As toddlers, I cheered their transition from diapers to dry.

When my fourth-grader failed to do his school work, I made him provide me with daily of proof that he had done it before I rewarded him with tokens when he did the work – or took some away when he did not.

At all times, I have stood ready to support them emotionally and spiritually, but I refused to run interference or to make excuses when they really blew it – even when it meant I endured with them the humiliation, inconveniences and consequences of their decisions.

It has not been easy. Many times, I held my breath after I refused to cushion them from life’s harsh realities. When my daughter begged me to bail her out financially after one semester away at college. I asked her how much money she expected to earn and her expenses. And then, I showed her that she had enough to cover necessities, classes and books – but no money for movies and eating out.

I believed she should deal with her financial dilemma without my help. And she did. She caught up on her bills and began re-thinking how she used the money she had and eventually told me it was the best thing I could have done.

I believe that my job as a parent continues through every subsequent stage of life. For medical and social reasons, two asked to return to live in the family home for a while. I agreed as long as each understood that I expected a substantial monthly payment for room and board, their help with household chores and that they take care of their own vehicle, laundry, bills and living quarters. They met those expectations.

I still stand ready to help in a real emergency or to make a legitimate loan – when it is truly needed. It rarely is – because I have proudly watched them realize my greatest gift to them – the freedom of being equipped to live as capable, independent adults.