We went through a tough time this summer. My motherly instinct was fully charged with helping, reminding and desperately trying to help my college kids to avoid learning their lessons the hard way. I encouraged being proactive instead of procrastinating.
All to no avail. It was useless – all the energy I threw into trying to help them to be motivated to get things done without the last minute strife that happens when deadlines get close or even pass – flew out the window in the summer heat. It made absolutely no difference except to have me anxiety ridden and deteriorate my relationship with my kids. Bull-headed I kept thinking that I would be helping them to grow, all the while trying to get things done that needed to be done, that I couldn’t do for them since they’re over 18 years old and considered adults. And it didn’t work. But I kept at it. I’m not a quitter. Until I quit.
When they’d complain that I was nagging them, I’d tell them that I didn’t like nagging and if they’d just do what they were supposed to do on time, I wouldn’t have to remind them. I thought I was being a good parent by reminding them of deadlines, and of appointments, etc.
But I wasn’t. A nice blog reader explained it to me in a comment awhile back, but I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t give up trying to help them to be better and to avoid the hardships of learning lessons the hard way. Luckily, my kid’s therapist had me in a session with my kid. Afterwards, the light bulb finally went off and I’ve retained the mantra I chose in that session ever since.
I’m not a nag. I’m a resource.
Which means that I am not nagging you to keep up with your deadlines etc. I am here to support you and to help you along the way, but this is your life. Your responsibility. Your choice. While I used to perform miracles in helping when things went awry, I no longer pull out my Wonder Woman costume and rise to the occasion.
I’ve lived my life. I’ve made my mistakes. I’ve paid for those choices. I learned the hard way myself because I refused to listen to the nagging of my own parents. Where did that get me? Living in fear of doing the wrong thing…and that’s the cross I’ve borne for many years. A burden I didn’t want my kids to carry either.
But I realized, finally, that I’ve lived my life thus far and in being a Mom, I have to give them the freedom to live theirs – to experience what’s needed in order to grow and to learn and to be themselves. While I’m a resource always, I’ve laid down the gauntlet of Nagdom and released myself from its tethers that so strongly bound me .
I feel lighter in ways I never dreamed possible. I bite my tongue often so as not to nag. And life is better here for all of us.
When things go wrong as they have since my Wonder Woman costume was laid to rest, I haven’t gone off in a nagging way. I’ve allowed what may have easily been prevented to occur and let them deal with the consequences. It’s been eye-opening for each of us.
It’s been a rocky road for me though. I’m a planner. I like to get things done and to know that deadlines are met. I spent a lot of time configuring how I’d help them if they didn’t meet the deadlines and I didn’t worry for naught because it’s happened. But instead of doing my Wonder Woman routine, I sat back and when asked, I advised as to what I’d try to do in the situation. I didn’t jump in to help. BIG STEP FOR ME!
When I read what I’ve written, I can see that you may think I was a Helicopter Mom. But let me explain. I stand securely in knowing that I wasn’t such a Helicopter Mom as I was more of a guilt-ridden divorced mother who was desperately trying to be Mom and Dad to two boys who had been blindsided by their father’s leaving us. Both my kids ended up with anxiety, on meds (which they no longer need) and in therapy because while I thought I was protecting them by doing everything, I was stifling them and not allowing them to grow.
I wanted to protect them from experiencing more disappointments. Instead, I held them back from learning the necessary skills in order to be healthy, resilient men. I see it now and I’m grateful that Wonder Woman is safely put away. I don’t have to be Mom and Dad. I only have to be me. We all experience hard times, disappointments, and angst. What helps us is to practice resilience which is a muscle that is well-toned in me, but needed additional training in my kids.
So if you’re driving yourself mad in trying to do everything because you feel guilty that you’re a single divorced parent, take it from me – I’m not a nag. I’m a resource.