Tonight, in the mall, we passed by a man, dressed as a clown, selling balloon animals and flowers. We were on our way to Santa so I told Munchkin we’d come back on the way out. WE went to see Santa, secured our annual cute (but overpriced) pictures with the jolly Elf and headed back. Wanting to be true to my word, we stopped at the balloon man and Munchkin began to look at the different choices.
Initially, she chose a little black mouse. I second-guessed her and asked if she wouldn’t rather pick a different color so he could draw on it too. She ended up choosing a pink butterfly; something totally different from her original choice. The man with the balloons looked me dead in the eye and said, “in my experience, when they are able to make a sound decision, it is best to back away and let them. After all, one of these days she’ll bring home a boy you don’t like.”
I was a little put off by a man, dressed as a clown, handing out unsolicited parenting advice.
She took her pink butterfly and we moved on in the mall. I think she held it about 10 seconds before handing it to us to hold. Just like that, this little thing she’d been so excited about before was relegated to a forgotten thing in a bag. I think it’s still in the car.
So, here I am, at 3:30am feeling convicted about what the man said and wondering at what point decisions like picking the “right” balloon animal became so important as to merit input from her mother.
Looking at this event, while minor and probably gone from Munchkin’s consciousness, it echoes other events and times when my “help” may have been more of a hindrance than good. It may be a bit of a parents’ prerogative to be heavy-handed from time to time but tonight smacked of that type of helicopter parenting I despise.
Did I hurt Munchkin tonight with my meddling? No, of course not. It was a two dollar balloon butterfly. But, could my meddling hurt Munchkin in the long run if I do not establish more consistent boundaries for my guidance – quite possibly. We certainly see the spoiled, helpless, nearing-adult children at the high school who are direct results of heavy-handed “mommy knows best” parenting.
Lord, forgive me for straying too close to a type of parent I don’t want to be. Forgive me for butting in on a decision that should have been Munchkin’s alone. Help me set consistent expectations for Munchkin, give her the right tools and God-centered guidance and then back away so she can make her own decisions. Help me have discernment to know when she needs my input and when she can make choices on her own. Thank you for people bold enough to admonish a total stranger. Amen.
So, what are my expectations for Munchkin?
- Be safe at all times. (thanks Mom)
- Do your very best at school.
- Be respectful of adults.
- Be kind to others.
How will I help her meet those expectations?
- Keep up my commitment to previewing what she watches on TV to make sure it’s giving her messages that are consistent with our expectations for her behavior. While the Disney channel shows she has begun watching are entertaining and G-rated, I don’t know if they reinforce the messages we are trying to send. I will talk to Munchkin and those shows will be off the playlist for a while.
- Renew my commitment to spending quality time with Munchkin every day; reading, playing, and just spending time with the coolest kid in the world.
- Create an environment where it is safe to make bad decisions, learn from them and make good decisions the next time.
- Let myself off the hook because I’m still learning too and am bound to make mistakes.