Flashback***at his elementary and middle school there were around 300 kids. If something was left behind, one of the teachers or fellow students would likely put it in the lost and found by the next morning.
It was very hard to wear someone’s garment from the lost and found, as everyone would recognize what belonged to whom.
Such is not the case now at a High School of 3,400 students.
This morning I received a stressed-sounding text from my son, “I thought I left my (new hoodie) in a classroom, but now it’s not there. It’s not in the lost and found, either!”
Our older son, a senior in HS, can often be heard grumbling about his younger brother’s belongings piling up around the house, or in the car, as it were. Older son will say to younger son, “The car is not your locker!”, as he shoves younger brothers’ things aside to fit his own stuff in the back seat of my compact car.
As the mom of these guys, I can be heard reciting many of my broken record mantras each day. For the younger, it’s usually “Clean up your spot”. His “spot” is his place at the kitchen table that I move all his stuff to, in my attempt to tidy the house. It does actually get picked up on occasion.
My heart is sad for the young’un. I know he’s really bummed. But now I don’t need to be the broken record anymore. Now I get to stand back and let him (and his big brother) absorb the consequences. I’ve harped on certain things for so long, and now I harp no more.
A few months ago, older son was at a park in a large city with some friends. It was dusk and he set down his backpack, with all his belongings inside, on the ground by some trees. He walked just a short distance away to film some video of his friends, and when he returned to his backpack, it was gone – along with all it’s contents which were both important and/or special to him.
I had to bite my tongue. It was really challenging not to ask, “What were you thinking?!”. They don’t need to feel any worse. If I did say something, it would turn their resentment toward me, and off of themselves. My job now is to put my arm around their shoulders and say, “Wow, that really sucks – I’m sorry to hear that.” In other words, be on their side with them, with a fudgy swirl of compassion twirling through our interaction. We can look at the proverbial puddle of spilled milk together as I ask, “What are you going to do about that?”.
The unspoken message in my question is that I trust them to figure it out – that they’re competent of such a task.
I learned this technique from a book called, “Parenting with Love and Logic”. I feel so much more aligned employing that tactic, than I would being snarky to those I love so fiercely.
In one and three years respectively, these boys will launch into their own lives. It’s time for me to step back and let them have a taste of driving their own bus. After all, I want for them to have some savvy when they leave home.
I hear too often that the shock of college or moving out is just too big and overwhelming. Doing laundry, getting up and out of the shower themselves, having their things ready to go in the morning, so they’re not frantically searching for stuff when they’re supposed to be getting on a train.
Each little hurdle they can learn to clear before they leave home, is one less they’ll be smacked between the eyes with when they leave the nest.
This is easier said than done, however, our self management now will be the gift that keeps on giving later.