Originally published Monday, 19 September 2016.
I turned the mini-van into our neighborhood, so ready to be done with the afternoon of errands. My younger two in the backseat needed some down time to free range after our full school morning and I was itching to get to my laptop for a slew of writing tasks.
I would have a delightful window of time to work on my stuff before we loaded back up to meet my 17-year-old after football practice.
I pulled into our driveway and turned the van off. Just as I was about to give some instructions for the afternoon, my cell phone buzzed. It was my 17-year-old.
“Hey,” I answered, trying to smooth over any tone that I already felt interrupted.
“Hey, Mom. I forgot my cleats. Can you bring them to school?”
Ok – let me freeze right here.
I know the consensus among so-called experts would advise a parent in this situation to just say no. Parents should not rescue, they say. Let the child experience natural consequences and solve the problem without stepping in.
Believe me when I say my own agenda was also screaming no. Turning around to help him now would mean another 45 minutes at least before we’d be back home.
But I didn’t hesitate on this one.
“Sure. I’ll bring them to the field,” I said backing down the driveway for another round trip to his school.
There have been plenty of times that I’ve knotted up with frustration or launched into a lecture or let the consequences teach but I’ve also learned that sometimes you step in to help because -- this is what a mom does.
Maybe the experts would cringe at that. Maybe they’d say I’m rewarding irresponsibility or crippling my child’s ability to figure it out.
But if I’ve learned anything in this parenting it’s that rules without mercy wind me up way too tight. We all need grace.
Some situations call for a bright-line rule.
Sometimes I need to call the child downstairs to put away shoes left in the living room.
Sometimes I need to call the child and review the rule on where to put our shoes.
Sometimes I need to hold the shoes until the child can pay their ransom.
But strict rules enforced with absolute consistency make me feel more like a master sergeant than a mom – and they don’t account for real life.
Because departures can get busy and time gets miscalculated and tasks get forgotten. And in those situations – if it’s not chronic irresponsibility – then maybe what’s most needed is not to tow the hard line but to offer grace.
Sometimes I just need to quietly put away the shoes because that’s what a mom does.
Or clean up their late night snack.
Or help them with an 11th-hour deadline.
When I reassure myself that this is part of a mom’s territory, my expectations adjust and my feelings follow. The irritation that usually rises and the sense that I’m being put out unwinds.
Grace just releases all of us.
I got an urgent call yesterday from an installer who was ready to start work on our out-of-town rental. He had special-ordered material and his worker was all scheduled to start installation except for one hang-up: he hadn’t yet received my deposit.
Because I’d forgotten to send the deposit.
The invoice had become buried under other papers in my stack and now I had two choices: I could press pause on my entire morning, load kids up in the car and drive the hour and a half to give him a check or I could call my son who lives in the same town to help.
I sent a text to my son: “Can you take a check to the house for me this morning?”
He didn’t hesitate. “Sure!”
There was no lecture. No irritation. No I'm-not-going-to-step-in-so-the-consequences-can-teach.
He extended grace when I needed it.
That’s what a family does.