The Trust Dilemma: The Fear of Teaching Responsibility


Is This Really What Parents Do?

I’m a self-proclaimed worrier, or maybe just a concerned parent.  As a mom to an only child, I wonder if my daughter is happy, healthy, entertained and safe…all the time.  It got to a point to where I would wonder constantly, which, in turn, resulted in me centering my life around her.  Most people would say, “That’s what parents do”.  Aren’t we supposed to build our lives around our kids?  Shouldn’t they be our reason for living?  Controversially, I would say not exactly.  How can we teach our kids responsibility if we never let them do things on their own? Before you call Child Protective Services, hear me out. 

Teaching Responsibility and Learning to Let Go

As a single mom, my 10-year-old goes just about everywhere with me.  That’s just how it is.  About 2 months ago, I needed to run to the store to grab a couple of things that we absolutely needed for the next day.  Since my “mom brain” forgot to get them sooner, I had no choice but to go that particular evening.  Of course, this all dawned on me just before bedtime and I was not going to have my daughter stay up late because her mom forgot to go to the store.  I had no choice but to leave Amiah at home to get ready for bed…by herself.  As you would suspect, I probably broke the speed limit and made the fastest Wal-Mart run in history.  Park, run, grab, check out and get home…record time.  As I nervously walked quick-paced to the door and unlocked it, all sorts of thoughts ran through my head.  What if she’s crying because she got scared?  What if she hurt herself…or worse?  As I opened the door, to my surprise, she was sitting quietly on the couch.  “That was quick!” she said with an astonished look on her face.  She looked like I hadn’t been gone long enough.  I went through the nightly inventory of questions…”Did you get your bath?  Brush your teeth?  Pick out your school clothes?  All of them were answered with a confident “yes” and that same look of surprise with a hint of “Really, Mom??  I got this!”

It was that day that I realized I hadn’t put enough trust in my child.  I honestly thought that in order for her to be responsible I had to be there to supervise and oversee.  As time went on, I began to understand that at a certain age she could be given opportunities to take care of herself.  After all, isn’t that our job as parents, to teach our kids how to take care of themselves?

The other day, I planned to go to the gym to get a quick workout in.  Amiah and I ate dinner and she knew beforehand that I was going.  We talked about what she needed to do while I was gone and when she should expect me to return.  When I returned, she had not only done the things that I had asked, she was ready for bed and busily working on a school project…without me telling her to.  It was at that point I knew that this was the beginning of a new stage for her.  She wasn’t my little baby that I needed to shelter and hover over. No more Helicopter Mom for me!  She showed me that I could trust her, as much as you could trust a smart and capable 10-year-old.  Moving forward, she’ll get a little more slack on the rope.  But I think she knows that when that trust is mishandled, Momma will quickly tighten up.  A bittersweet moment indeed, but if she’s going to be a capable adult, I suppose she should be given the chance to grow into one.