The Not-So-Tiger-Mom

by Lisa Rosen on August 16, 2011

I had an interesting conversation with another mom yesterday.  Her oldest child leaves for college later this week, and we were commiserating over the struggles we’ve had trying to get our boys ready to leave the nest.*

We were at the high school, at the orientation for parents of new students.  I’ve been to a bunch of these things, in middle school and high school.  They’re pretty consistent:  administrators brief us on school policies, and spend the rest of the time trying to convince us to back off and let our kids take some responsibility for their lives.  As far as I can tell, most parents tune that part out.  They ask lots of questions about things like how to find out what the homework is, and how to get their kid’s schedule changed.

I always walk out feeling sort of discombobulated.  That kind of hovering behavior is anathema to me, but at the same time, I’m a bit uncomfortable knowing I’m the only parent in the room who has no idea what classes my kids registered for.

After the meeting ended, I was telling this other mom (whom I haven’t seen in years) how hard it has been for us to stay out of Toby’s academic life, and let him screw up (over and over again!), sometimes really badly.  She said–get this–that her only regret was THAT SHE DIDN’T BACK OUT OF HER KID’S LIFE EVEN EARLIER.  Watching him get ready for college, she’s worried.  She’s realizing that it takes years of practice, in the safety net of home, to learn how to be independent.

For the record, this is a woman who taught her kids how to use the washing machine when they were six or seven years old.

It turns out doing laundry is the easy stuff.  The important stuff is much more challenging–stuff like decision-making, personal responsibility,  problem-solving, how to screw up and survive.

Those skills take a lot of practice–years of practice–and it’s hard to get that practice if your parents run your life.

It was such a relief to compare notes with another parent and not walk away feeling like the worst mother ever.

*For the record, I’d just had an exchange with another mom, who’d asked me where Toby is planning to go to college.  She told me all about how she and her daughter have been touring schools up and down the east coast.  I just smiled and shrugged a lot (I sort of wanted to say, “Really?  I just want Toby to stop leaving his underwear in the living room.”)  But this other mom?  Her son applied to one college–the one he was interested in.  And that’s where he’s going.

I totally wanted to kiss that mom for making my day.  IT’S NOT JUST ME.

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