Today I'm using a writing prompt from Mama Kat's Writing Workshop, #1) Share something your child taught YOU about parenting. Any parent knows that there are a million moments in a childhood when you learn from watching your own children. It's how we tweak our parenting styles to suit our own families. My own most recent experience came just the other day.
K-boy joined the Civil Air Patrol a few months back. It's an Air Force auxiliary with a cadet program for teens. The goals set forth in the manual are worthy and impressive, emphasizing personal pride and responsibility to the community and nation. The cadets wear Air Force uniforms and are drilled in real military procedures. Playtime it is not.
I'm actually the one who discovered the program. BadDad and I had never heard of it before. We decided to leave it in K-boy's hands as to whether he wanted to join. We explained that advancement requires real work and commitment. Cadets must pass rigorous physical and academic tests, and interviews in order to move up in the ranks. We'd be willing to support him (and drive him to meetings) but he would have take the weight of responsibility for preparing for it onto his own shoulders.
As homeschooling parents, we're quite used to having to push our children to complete tasks that they dislike. From math problems to household chores, we're often there with reminders to get the job done. We didn't want to have to push him through this activity.
Twelve year old K-boy made an informed decision to join CAP. My hubby drove him to meetings and took him for haircuts. I hemmed uniform pants, and sewed on badges. I swallowed the lump in my throat that the sight of my tall, adolescent son in a uniform caused, and looked for more ways to help. We both made sure that he had time in his days to study his manuals and quizzed him to test his knowledge. I laundered uniforms, ironed shirts and adjusted pins. We acted like parents.
The other day K-boy hit a glitch. The test that he was taking online froze up and wouldn't let him proceed. My invaluable advice to shut down and then log on again led to a message that he would have to get permission from his captain before attempting the test again. Gulp.
The afternoon before his meeting, I urged him to study some more, in case he had to take the test during the meeting. I wanted to quiz him, but he wouldn't let me. I waited to be pressed into last minute ironing duties, or to be asked to help him with something. The only thing he asked of me was to help him fold up the ironing board again, after he ironed his own shirt.
As he was going out the door in his blues, looking so much like a young adult that my heart squeezed in my chest, I said to him, I just feel like you're forgetting something. You didn't ask me to help you get ready at all.
I hugged him, not ready to let him go yet.
He leaned down and kissed me on the cheek. Mom, I'm fine, he said, I've got everything I need.
Then he strode out to the car, walking tall the way he does in his uniform.
Hours later, BadDad and K-boy returned home. Anxiously, I asked if he'd taken the test. He nodded, as he wolfed down a sandwich, a hint a of smile on his face. My hubby directed my attention to our son's chest. There was a bar, and new pins. K-boy had taken not one, but three tests that evening, gone through an interview, and been promoted. All without us there.
His eyes were shining with pride. He had done this. He earned his promotion. Yes, we supported him in our roles as parents, but in the end he walked into the meeting alone and confidently displayed his knowledge. His officers saw him not as our child, but as a cadet worthy of promotion.
That's the latest lesson I've learned as a mother. Whether I'm ready or not, the time will come to let go. K-boy, and someday his younger siblings, will walk out into the world, and face life on their own. I won't be able to pave the way for them. My son showed me that when that time comes for him, he will take on the demands of the world and do more than just meet them. He will achieve.
linking to: Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop, Pour Your Heart Out, Proud Mommy Moments