Six Children and No Theories

Covering parenting and child development issues

Second Guessing

Written by Lisa Lawmaster Hess, Community Blogger | Oct 26, 2012 10:19 AM

"Ignorance and bungling with love are better than wisdom and skill without." (Henry David Thoreau)

When I took an early (semi-) retirement, one of my main goals was to be more available for my family. In fact, my favorite part of this decision is that it has allowed me to be home when my daughter leaves for school in the morning and home when she comes home in the afternoon. Mornings are calmer, with fewer arguments and less anxiety about making it to school and work on time, which gets our weekdays off to a much nicer start. That much has gone well.

Not everything has gone so smoothly.

Last week, I had my first adventure in bungling (since I retired, that is). My daughter's English teacher asked me to chaperone a ninth-grade field trip to see Romeo and Juliet at the local college. I was practically salivating. My daughter was indignant. Under no circumstances did she want me to say yes. 

A high school freshman who didn't want her mother coming along on a field trip? Imagine that.

But it was Shakespeare. And it's not like she'd have to sit with me. Or even acknowledge my existence. I get that she needs her space. And I had every intention of giving it to her. But I had never chaperoned so much as a dance, let alone a field trip (a status which was just fine with my daughter), and after all, hadn't I retired to be more available? This was too good to pass up, even if it did mean riding on a school bus with a bunch of ninth graders.

Needless to say, my daughter saw it differently, and she told me so. All her life, we've asked her opinion about things that affect her, and have taken that opinion into consideration, and so she has grown accustomed to offering an opinion, often before she is asked. But, from the time she was small, we also told her that sometimes she got a vote, and sometimes she just got an opinion, with her father and I making the final decision.

The trouble was, though I wanted to treat this one as solely an opinion, even to me, it felt more like she deserved a vote. I was intruding into her world. Had it been a matter of safety, or a consequence for poor behavior, that would have been one thing. But she's a good kid, not one who needed her mother to come along to keep her in line.

In the end, I sought more input. I asked her teacher how desperate she was for chaperones, and based my decision (in part) on that. Of course it didn't hurt that her teacher's answer strengthened my case, but that fact did make my decision slightly more palatable to my daughter.

Ah, but she had rules. No embarrassing her. In fact, no talking to her or getting near her if I could help it.I tried to be indignant, but I was too amused. So this is fourteen.

The play was wonderful, and after all of that angst, I have no regrets. We both emerged unscathed. I gave her her space, a part of me grateful that the independence and determination we've instilled has taken root.

And her first question when she got home that afternoon?

"So, Mom. What did you think of the play?"



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