Do You Let Your Child Sink or Swim?

My son Eli juggles a lot these days. Six classes, homework, play rehearsal, his High School’s Shakespeare troupe, college applications and of course, all the "stuff" that goes with being a senior in high school. A lot to keep on top of! So one recent morning when he was in a rush to get out the door for school, he left behind his permission slip for a special out-of-town Performing Arts weekend that is a right of passage for the seniors in his theater program.

How did I know all this? Because at about 9:00am that morning, as I was driving home from a speaking engagement I had in Albany the night before, I got the dreaded call.  “Mom, where are you?”

Eli was clearly upset that he forgot the slip, and since the sign up was first-come, first-serve, he needed to hand it in during theater class (which was in about an hour) or he would possible not get a spot. And since he had a test in the period before theater he didn’t’ want to drive home to get it himself. You get the picture.  So what did I do?

My first instinct was to say no. First, I wasn’t planning on going straight home, so this would mean a HUGE change of plans for me. Second, we talk A LOT about responsibility in our house. And, this had the potential of being a HUGE teaching moment. “Your trip, your responsibility.” “What would you have done next year when you are in college?” And lastly, he could go home during lunch to get it and take his chances that there would be a few slots left.But then the mom in me took over. “He’s been working really hard. It’s one permission slip on one crazy morning. Opening night was last night and he’s exhausted. What’s the big deal if you play ‘Nice Mom’ and bring it to him? This trip is the highlight of senior year.” And on it went. All this with no coffee!   “I’ll meet you at the school in an hour.”

As I drove along the highway I thought long and hard as to why I said yes. Maybe because Eli is pretty responsible - keeping on top of his stuff and doing what he needs to do with limited prompting. Or, perhaps I just didn’t want Eli to miss this trip. Too big a consequence for such a small action! But most likely I liked being needed. With one child graduating college this year, and another high school, my opportunities to “save the day” are few and far between. Can’t underestimate that! So did I let my son sink or swim? Neither really. I like to think of myself as his lifeguard that day throwing him a rope so he could help himself out of the deep end.Would love to hear what you would have done. Email me at and let me know!


Read our blog post, 5 Tips for an Organized and Stress Free Year!


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