The Mysteries Only Mom Can Solve

The oldest of my three children just had his last first day of school. Along with the obligatory pictures, I couldn’t help feeling a bit melancholy, after all it’s hard to imagine this kid who made me a mother not being around this time next year. It’s hard to think about any of your children not needing you anymore. But in the hustle and bustle to get my gang out the door, my now senior in high school son unintentionally let me know he still needed me.

“Mom! I can’t find my sneakers? Can you help me find them?”

Yes, of course I knew exactly where they were. I was elated, I made fun of it on social media, and laughed at myself for thinking he didn’t still depend on me for a million things. And then it dawned on me, maybe he shouldn’t. Maybe it’s high time I stop letting him.

Not a Helicopter Parent

I’ve never been what’s accurately described as a helicopter parent. This may be in large part due to the fact that I’m very much not a morning person. I’m the person my kids, husband, and anyone who has ever met me avoids until I have had two hours and preferably six or seven cups of coffee to wake up.

As morning monster, I taught my kids at a very young age to make their own lunches and get themselves out the door. This isn’t without me fielding a million questions from my coffee chair, including, but not limited to, Where are my shoes? What day is it? Where is my soccer jersey? Where’s my notebook? Where’s my science homework? Where’s my sister? Where’s my own head?

As annoying as these questions can be, I can generally answer them without having to think twice. Even in my caffeine-deprived state I maintain a mental catalog of the chaos in our house.  It often seems like I am the only person capable of finding anything in our house. 

There is a social media post that pops up each year that reminds me of a time I was trying to eat lunch and my whole family pitched in to find my daughter’s missing soccer jersey. Despite my describing exactly where it was, they spent thirty minutes searching before giving up and deciding they had to go to the league headquarters and buy a new one. I got up, rinsed my plate and found the jersey in ten seconds. I know this is a common experience of mothers everywhere because it was one of my most liked and commented on posts the year I wrote it.

But as my son starts his senior year it occurs to me that I have been doing this whole thing wrong. Completely wrong. I should have been sitting there every morning sipping my coffee with headphones on and not answered a single question.

The Lunch Catch-22

Way back when my son was in 4th grade, I got a call from his school three times in two weeks. He kept forgetting his lunch and if I didn’t bring it to him, they would have to charge me for a lunch from the school. I tried to tell them to just let him go hungry. One day of that, and he would stop forgetting his lunch for sure.

The school refused to do it, as they said they weren’t allowed to. I made my case to them quite reasonably, I thought. It was a six-hour school day, he wasn’t going to starve, so couldn’t they just help me teach him a valuable lesson? The answer was a hard no.

The school did allow parents to come join their kids in the cafeteria for lunch however, so that’s what I did instead. I joined my son at the lunch table with his lunch and I ate it in front of him not sharing one bite. Guess what? He never forgot his lunch again.

And before you send hate mail, he also didn’t starve. When he got home at 3:30 he made himself a giant ham and cheese sandwich and was just fine.

Find it Yourself

I can’t help but wonder how things would pan out around here if I didn’t give anyone any aid in the mornings finding their things. They might be late to school once, maybe twice, but I’m pretty sure after they suffered the consequences, they’d pull themselves together and figure it out. After all, isn’t that what’s going to suddenly have to happen next year?

Then again, I think of that soccer jersey and wonder how many unnecessary things they might end up purchasing because they couldn’t find something, and then I think perhaps we might end up spending so much we won’t be able to afford to help with college. I’ll keep you posted.

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About Laura Keyes Ellsworth

Laura has been writing and editing for more than 25 years, a fact which more than a source of pride, sends her running to the wrinkle cream aisle of CVS. She has worked for CNN, CNBC, Bloomberg, The Economist Intelligence Unit, and CBS radio. She has three children, and you will either find her thoroughly enjoying their company or yelling at them to clean up after themselves and turn off the lights.

View all posts by Laura Keyes Ellsworth

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