Sunday, October 17, 2010
I'm disappointed in myself today for not biting my tongue. I hadn't even spent five minutes chatting to my MIL before starting to spue my judgements of her. She was telling me all about how involved she is with my 18 year old niece who is away at university this year. The girl is being coddled like nothing I've ever seen! She's driven everywhere, told to give updates on her where-abouts. She even had to get her parent's permission to stay over at a girlfriend's place? Rather than get my sympathy on just how difficult and unreliable the bus systems is on the weekends, I couldn't bear hearing another word. I blurted out that it was ridiculous to treat her like a child and that hopefully the novelty would wear off soon. Of course, my MIL was shocked to hear me contradict her so sharply. She made some weak defense about doing her duty to look out for her grand-daughter and closed the door to her car and just left. Ugh.
Why did I react so strongly? Time to look in the mirror once again. I coddle our kids. I do everything for them and constantly tell them what to do. I want to encourage their autonomy, but I keep forgetting to apply my knowledge. Reminder of my role here: my job is to prepare them to leave the nest. I don't think my niece even realizes that she is being smothered, poor thing. She'll probably never know what it feels like to think for herself, find her way or make big decisions until after she's been married with kids for 10 years.
My parents coddled me, but they also let us have our freedom when we were teenagers. I was practically living with my boyfriend by the time I was 21 -- my parents saw me on weekends when I came home to do my laundry. If we needed to get somewhere, the bus was it. We were expected to work if we wanted spending money. My folks certainly didn't know anything about what I was learning at uni. They trusted me to study and attend classes as I saw fit. I want this for my children and more. If my daughter wants to go back-packing across Europe when she's 18, then I will support her all the way. If my son wants to start his own business or go work in another country, I will not get in his way.
My mistake today was in speaking out of turn. My partner was relieved that I said something because he too has been getting annoyed with the coddling. But just because it's not my way does not mean that I have the right to tell someone else they are wrong. Gawd, years of parenting and meeting others with different lifestyles should've taught me that by now! I am grateful at the reminder though -- my kids need me yes, but they should need me a little bit less each day or I am not doing my job.