Not wanting to pass up the opportunity for a life lesson, I texted back, “Sure, no problem.”
I’m guessing that’s not what you thought I was going to say.
Yes, I’m well aware this was a chance to teach him a lesson in responsibility. A more popular response might have been, “I’m sorry you made that mistake and I hope when you face the consequences that you will learn to be more responsible and not make that same mistake again.”
But I’ve always been a mom who has helped out my kids if they needed me. I’ve been made fun of for it, and perhaps judged. I’ve even convinced myself it's something I need to stop doing.
But recently, I came to a realization. There are other important lessons that can be taught in situations such as these, beyond the obvious of responsibility — lessons that actually are lost without “coming to the rescue.”
Here’s what I know: I know my son was up late the night before this happened, far past my own bed time, putting the finishing touches on an essay he was writing. I also know such a late night isn’t necessarily out of the ordinary. He has a challenging class schedule and works hard to balance multiple AP courses along with his varsity sports. Another thing I know, is that everyone makes mistakes — even us responsible adults who’ve learned many a life lesson have forgotten something or screwed up now and again, especially if overtired and stressed.
It was with all this in mind that I decided to cut my son a break. In doing so, yes, I did indeed miss an opportunity to teach him a lesson in responsibility, but as I mentioned, there were plenty of other lessons he learned instead.
He learned kindness and consideration — that if you are able to do something to help someone out, or simply do something nice for someone, then yes, you should absolutely do it. Why wouldn’t you?
He also learned his parents are people he can turn to when he needs help; who have his back; who he can depend on no matter how old he gets; and who will always be there for him.
Lastly was a lesson in gratitude and appreciation. I know he understood this one, too, since he later texted me: “Thank you, you’re the best.”
If our kids mess up and reach out to us for help, and we’re able, but choose not to for the sake of teaching them a lesson in responsibility, what are we really teaching them? That it’s OK to just not help someone even if you can? That if you need help, don’t turn to us?
I know I’m being a bit dramatic here, and that there are absolutely times we need to teach our kids responsibility. However, I do believe that sometimes the greater lessons are hidden within the obvious one.
There will be plenty of opportunities in my son’s life to learn things the hard way, to have to face consequences, hold himself accountable for his actions and be responsible. But I hope he will also have ample opportunity to help others if he can, and to be a kind and considerate person. I hope that if he has a problem, no matter how big or small, he will know he can come to us.
And I hope he knows mistakes happen, people forget things and it’s OK to ask for help — just like it’s OK to be a mom who comes to the rescue.
— By Kelly Kalis, Tribune community columnist