We’ve had an extraordinarily warm, sunny fall; so much so that it’s October 24th and I have not yet turned on the furnace. But the clouds rolled in last night, and when I flipped on the outdoor lights and opened the door to let the dogs out early this morning, our back porch was a puddle. And the big drops were still dripping.
Scooter, our terrier mix, zipped out to run the perimeter. Millie, our big purebred, took one look at the wet and instantly decided that she was now an indoor Greater Swiss Mountain Dog.
As the morning progressed and departure time approached, I wondered: should I drive the kids to the bus stop so they wouldn’t get soaked? Instantly, this thought was followed by a wave of guilt. My generation of parents is constantly accused of “helicopter parenting.” They say we coddle our kids, fight their battles for them, and cause them anxiety because they don’t build confidence by solving problems for themselves.
I try hard not to helicopter. I have one – well, one and a half, actually – kids with special needs. I learned early that in most cases, the more I let them do for themselves, the better off they are (two major exceptions: driving and lion taming).
My litmus test for whether or not I’m making things too easy for my kids is this: would my parents have done this for me? Would their parents have done this for them?
This train of thought took me instantly to my childhood on Miller Avenue, and the many, many dark and rainy mornings I slogged to school on foot beside all the other neighborhood kids. If our parents were concerned about us getting wet, they handed us an umbrella.
But I also remember the thrill of stepping out of school on a rainy afternoon to see our unmistakable banana-yellow 1972 Gran Torino station wagon waiting by the curb. My mom had come to our rescue, and instead of trudging home in the cold and wet, we could snuggle into the brown vinyl seats and ride home in luxury.
Wanting to keep my kids dry is not unique to my generation. Maybe it doesn’t constitute coddling. But just to be sure, I went back another generation in my mind, and searched my memories for what my parents have told me about their own difficult childhoods.
My dad, born and raised during the Great Depression, was no stranger to hardship, even as a child. He has told us many times about how he always walked to school. In the rain. In the snow. Uphill. (Say it with me…) Both ways.
My mom had to run to school in a dodging, zigzag pattern so the dinosaurs wouldn’t step on her.
I certainly had it easier than both of them. Perhaps it’s natural that our children have it easier than we did. Perhaps it’s fine to drive my kids the 0.09 miles to the bus stop so they don’t spend the first 2 hours of their day with wet sneakers.
Lucky for me, by departure time the rain had slowed to a drizzle. I kissed their cheeks, handed them their lunch boxes (all four food groups included, of course), and sent them on their way. Because parenting, and tough love, come so naturally to me.