by Lindsay Gallagher on 03/27/2012


Sorry guys, I have no choice, the time has come for me to let you fail.

I’m talking to my kids, of course, the ones who forget their lunches and homework assignments, lose their sweatshirts and inhalers and shorts.   Since both schools and all their activities are relatively nearby, I have always been able to swoop in and rescue them from hunger or embarrassment, bringing that lunch box that was left on the counter, that PE shirt that was still in the drawer.  I’ve brought homework packets that were finished in a rush at the breakfast table, only to be abandoned next to a half eaten plate of eggs; I’ve purchased new ballet slippers when the old one were not in the ballet bag.  I’m the worst!  So I am going to reform.  Or at least try.  I have been working on other things and not writing this blog.  I don’t have time to write entire essays on my sucky parenting skills, so I thought I would pin-point my biggest shortcoming.  My kids are young enough to survive a bad grade, hardy enough to go without one meal (and friendly enough to score an otherwise unwanted apple from a pal).  If the punishment for no PE shirt is 10 laps or a 100 push ups, then so be it.  If Tess has to miss recess to finish her reading log, that’s one less 1/2 hour of beliebing for her.  If Ronan forgets his swim cap at a meet, I guess he’ll just have to swim with extra drag on his head, even if it costs him a new personal best.

Just writing this gives me the chills.  I am as doubtful of my resolve as I am certain that it will be put to the test.  Maybe if I check in here, I will stick to it.  I will get the support I need to stop over-supporting my kids.

Yesterday, I told Ronan that it was bad parenting:  reminding him, prodding him and helping him the way I do.

“At some point, I’m not going to be able to help you.  I’m going to have to let you fail,” I said.

“But you would never do that to me,” he said.

Sorry buddy, but it’s for your own good.  It’s true, that in the end, he may be right, I may be too weak, so for the next few weeks or months or however long I can stand it, I will try to blog about this.   Please share your super-mom stories, the times that you’ve flown in to save the day.  Or the real super-mom stories, when you let your kids learn from their mistakes.

Day 1:

Ronan left his favorite sweatshirt on the floor and the puppy chewed a hole in it.  If I had not told him 100 times to pick up his stuff, had not warned him that the puppy eats things, this would not be as big of a dilemma.  He even helped pay for this sweatshirt with his allowance.  Now I can’t get him a new one, even though I really really  want to.  Ugh!

PS: I found my ring!  It was in the bins in the kitchen where we keep the sports gear.  I offered $20 to each child if either one of them found it, but they weren’t motivated to look for more than a minute or two.  It took me 3 weeks to get to that bin, but it was there all along.  I am wearing the engagement ring on the inside from now on.  ;-)



There are 14 comments in this article:

  1. 03/27/2012Christina Simon says:

    It’s hard not to swoop in and fix things…dreading the teenage years when swooping in to fix a problem will be a whole lot harder!

  2. 03/27/2012Lindsay Gallagher says:

    That’s why I have to get on it now! Though I want my kids to feel comfortable asking for help, especially when they are teens. Ugh!

  3. 03/27/2012Jordan says:

    I agree with you! I remember how many times my mother MADE my take a jacket with me on a date or a night out with my friends. If only she’d not insisted, and I had caught a cold, the battle may have ended. -Jordan

  4. 03/27/2012Cocoe Voci says:

    Relating to your writing to the millionth degree…Lila remembered that she “forgot” her PE shirt a block away from school…although she was in tears and frantic thinking about running the painful laps, a lump in my throat and my stomach turning, I told her I would not bring her shirt for her. I told her to be creative, find one or simply face the truth. This is after she sang most of the morning, delayed in getting dressed, took forever to eat half a bagel & juice, barely brush her teeth, yo-yo’d and even forgot her school work. I wanted to rescue her, I could have easily done it, but I said NO! She survived…stay strong!

  5. 03/27/2012Lindsay Gallagher says:

    Did you know that one day, Stephen brought Ronan a PE shirt?? I think he begged him, since Vaughn needed something from home too. I don’t remember exactly how it went down, but I am sure Ronan is eternally grateful! It did shake him up — since then he has not forgotten his shirt!

  6. 03/28/2012Jennifer says:

    I think it helps that I don’t drive…but otherwise I’m just as guilty as you!
    So happy about the ring! Bye J

  7. 03/28/2012Mikel says:

    Our school doesn’t allow parents to bring forgotten homework, instruments, lunches, etc. after 4th grade. It’s been great training for the parents!

  8. 03/28/2012Jesica Davis says:

    I’m 100% behind you on this, Lindsay. Obviously there’s a happy medium, and maybe some of our parents were happy to let us fail a little too much (ah, the glory days of hands-off seventies parenting), but you’re talking about building character. And the only way we build character is by experiencing the impact of our own behavior. Good for you. You can do it. And when one of your kids is in REAL trouble and REALLY needs your help, I know you’ll be there for them too.

  9. 03/28/2012Gina Osher says:

    Great post, Lindsay. This is such a hard thing for many parents. It so often feels as though we are being mean or unsupportive. But we all know inside that if we want children who can take care of themselves when we’re not around then we have to step back. I really like Wendy Mogel’s book “The Blessings of A Skinned Knee” which is exactly about this topic.

    Her second book “The Blessings Of A B Minus” is about parents who can’t let kids “fail” academically. Such interesting reading.

    Good luck with this. I am with you in the struggle. I still put my 5-year old son’s socks on for him because it makes me insane how long it takes him to do it himself. But if I let him just do it, he would get better (and faster) at it! *sigh*

  10. 03/28/2012Kate @Wilkinsonjk says:

    Man my son is only 21 months but I’ve already seen how important it is to let him figure things out on his own sometimes. Thanks for the reminder that we have to not only let them learn by falling (after all that’s how we ALL learn) but we have to follow through on EVERYTHING we say. So if you said it to your son then show him your words are worth respecting.

    Go girl!

  11. 03/28/2012Sarah says:

    Your choice to let your children fail and develop their own resolve seems to dovetail with the mindset theories advocated by Carol Dweck — allowing for personal struggle and focusing on perservering through that process is much more crucial and helpful to your child’s development than offering often empty praise for achieving an end goal. It seems like you can use this opportunity to do the same for your children, coach them through failures from the sidelines, focusing on the process, effort, and problem solving, without actually solving the issue for them. Maybe this analogy isn’t exactly on point, but I’m sure you understand what I am getting at.

  12. 03/28/2012Lindsay Gallagher says:

    That’s good advice. Focusing on the process is always helpful. If they ask me for help, if they recognize that they need help, then I don’t think it’s bad to say, proof read something. That is part of the process of writing and I am happy to help. But they have to recognize that themselves. Thank you for your comment.

  13. 03/30/2012Bessie Jamieson says:

    Do you remember when you started at Friends Seminary on 16th St. in Manhattan, and I drove you, I think because you were late. The car was always overheating, but I got you to the school, but then I couldn’t turn off the car, and it continued to overheat, eventually spewing smoke, and the fire department came and somehow turned it off. We go through hell for our children! And it’s worth it, but they do have to learn that they can fail, otherwise they’ll never try.

  14. 04/27/2012Lindsay Gallagher says:

    The D train, or maybe it was already a Q by then, broke down. I had to come back home because the trains weren’t running. Thank you for driving me to school!

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