Amid COVID 19, my college boy moved into his very first apartment. Along with four other college boys.
They signed the lease last Fall after visiting a few options nearby the campus.
Two weeks before the big move-in, one of the boys' moms, let's call her Chopper One, reached out to all four moms, myself included, suggesting it would be fun to work out who gets what for the apartment. And I clarified with her: she did not propose to have the boys work out the logistics. She wanted moms to work them out.
My initial reaction was, why do moms need to be involved when these kids are 19 and 20? And that was the first friendly threat this mom gave me by "offering" to remove me from the group chat. Politely I asked to stay because I did not want to miss the opportunity to see if she was a helicopter mom but stated I respect my son's independence. I would stay out of his personal affairs, such as setting up the apartment.
I then wondered...
Why bother sending them to college if they can't even decide what they need for the apartment?
Within minutes, another mom, let's call her Chopper Two, texted the group picture after picture of all brand new kitchen items, from utensils to pots and pans, to dinner mats.
Still, I reached out to Chopper Two, asking if she would like monetary donation if all boys were to use them. She declined. Her reason being if we all chipped in, move-out would be a nightmare because it would be difficult to decide who owns what and whatnot.
She completely missed the part "consider such contribution as the other four boys leasing your kitchen items."
Two days after the move-in, Chopper One texted the group suggesting we all chip in to buy an area rug for the living room. Once again, I had to confirm if our self-sufficient college boys want this rug, or perhaps, us moms are buying it as a gift for all of them.
Annoyingly, Chopper One replied, "I don't understand how buying a rug has to do with them being self-sufficient or not... I don't believe for one second these boys would go shopping for an area rug."
Hmm. Enough said.
She dismissed these boys' ability likely based on her observation of her own. In fact, none of the moms has met each other or even know the boys who are sharing the apartment. She took out the opportunity for these boys to learn what's needed for their daily life on their terms.
That evening, after Chopper One gave me my second warning to remove me from the group chat, Chopper Two rang me.
I am confident Chopper Two had every good intention when she decided to reach out, but the entire conversation had me rolled my eyes so many times I thought I was going to lose my eyeballs. Below is the highlight of the 50-minute long conversation:
Chopper Two: I only wanted to buy the rug for my son because he's on a budget.
Me: I see. What's his part-time job?
Chopper Two: No, he doesn't work. I give him an allowance.
Me: Well, my son held two part-time jobs last semester. Not once had he asked me to send him money.
Chopper Two: Well, my son doesn't ask me to send him money.
Me: That's great.
Chopper Two: I put more money into his account when it's low.
Okay, Chopper Two. It is not that your son doesn't ask for money. He doesn't have to because YOU make sure money doesn't run out in his account.
Chopper Two: My son is not good at cleaning up after himself. I wash and fold his clothes and he won't take them to his room.
Me: er... do you still do that?
Chopper Two: Yes, of course.
Me: Well, I must be the stepmom then. My son makes his breakfast since he was in first grade and does his own laundry as soon as he started middle school.
Chopper Two: What about when he comes home from college?
Me: He does his own laundry. Every now and then I would offer to do his if he is not well.
Chopper Two: Oh, I just realized there is no knife in the kitchen. I will get one and send it to them.
Me: They are close to lots of stores.
Chopper Two: Yes, but they need to have a knife.
Me: I could be wrong, but I think once they figure it out, there isn't a cutting knife, they will head to the store to get one.
Chopper Two: Well, I can get it for them.
Have I a record of helicopter parenting in the past? Heck yea. No parents want to see their children getting hurt, making the wrong decision, which might lead to negative consequences. All parents want to protect their children. All parents want to solve problems for their children before they have to deal with them directly.
Then one day my son asked, "Mom, do you not believe I have what it takes to handle this?"
Ding-ding-ding. Wake up call! Loud and clear!
As a parent, I should not be the one to dismiss his ability to deal with issues, to take away his opportunities in figuring out solutions. I should not be the one. What I think does not represent what he thinks. We are two individuals. Just because he thinks differently than me does not mean he is wrong.
Yes, our children will always be our children. But it doesn't mean they need to live the way we want them to.
And within weeks, these two choppers ordered everything they believe these boys need without realizing how fast they took away these boys' opportunities to learn about compromising, negotiating, budgeting, prioritizing, and possibly more.
I'd like to close this post with a writing from my favorite philosopher, Kahlil Gibran:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
Which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
But seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
As living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
And He bends you with His might
That His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
So He loves also the bow that is stable.
And the stepmom (me) removed herself from the group chat.