Enabling Vs. Doing


(Michael and me at the Charlotte airport... my last squeeze.)

I had a bit of an epiphany earlier this week as my oldest son and I traveled to South Carolina for his freshman orientation. Like most schools, Clemson University does orientation like a well-oiled machine. Every building is clearly marked, shuttle buses run predictably and consistently, each speaker talks to the minute as outlined in the program, and any question any parent or new student could possibly fathom is easily answered at any number of welcome desk help zones. Aside from agreeing to sleep in the dorm where Clemson's engineering students sleep and NOT really sleeping (it's been a LONG time since dorm life for me, friends, and I can safely report back that the mattresses are still abysmal), orientation was impressive. People in the south are friendly. Happy to help. And oh so very charming.

But then I noticed something. I was the one leading Michael and me to all our destinations. I was the one managing our schedule, asking questions, checking things off our list. Michael was right there the whole time, mind you, walking five steps behind me, his face buried in some $%#@Z! on his phone. (If you have little kids, do yourself a huge favor and don't get them these stupid electronics, because the minute you do marks the beginning of their demise.) And then it hit me. I'm not going to college. HE IS. So I stopped leading.

(When Joe, Michael, Jack and I visited Clemson back in March.)

We stood there in the middle of the main drag leading through campus, looking like total idiots. "What?" he asked me, like I had four heads. "Where are we going next, Michael? What do you need to get done before our flight this afternoon?" And, as you can well imagine, the mo-jo for the rest of the day was shot to hell. I was the bad guy. The jerk. The woman so woefully out of touch with the world these days. And I smiled. I closed my mouth and my eyes and smiled. Figure it out for yourself, rock star. 

I don't know what it's like at your house, but my sons are blamers. They're too slow to accept responsibility for their own shortcomings and too quick to point a finger in a different direction. The game is over, son, I thought to myself with a smile. And that's how the rest of our trip went. Silently. Bitterly. Blameingly (that's not a word but you know it should be). Predictably.


People ask me all the time if I'm going to cry at exactly this time next month when Joe and I drop Michael off at Clemson for good. No, I tell them. No, I won't. It's time. Sadly, I've been enabling my sons by doing so much. But getting things done. By putting out fires and making things happen. I've taught Michael as much as he's interested in learning. Now it's on him.

I'm told by parents 10 years older than I that boys finally "get it" by the time they hit their mid to late 20s. That sounds like a long time to me. But, just as quickly as he's hit adulthood, I know this next milestone is fast approaching.

I think that when it does, I'll do a little less doing. A little less managing and coordinating and a lot more watching. I created this monster, after all, and as handsome and smart and fabulous as his tall, lean, tanned self is, he needs to grow the heck up.

So... here's to stepping back and realizing that despite our best interests, we're a huge part of today's problem. After all. The best way to learn how to move forward is to fall flat on your face and realize that it really hurts. Which is precisely the lesson my son's new address will afford him.



  • It is the wise parent that knows to let their children do things for themselves, that is how they learn and develop self confidence. Yes, at times it is easier to do things yourself for your children, but in the end you are only hurting them. Letting them make their own decisions, figure things out, watching them stumble at times, but most of all it teaches kids responsibility, the result is they learn they can rely on themselves when their parents aren’t around. A self confident child that knows he can depend on himself, and make the right decisions that he has to make. And it is a great comfort to the parent knowing that your child is responsible enough to take care of himself and thrive. That is the gift of good parenting.

  • First thing’s first! ….You can’t get the most out of your college experience if you can’t stay awake….and Lord knows a good night’s sleep is NO ease feat on a college mattress. A memory foam mattress pad is a life saver! I’ll never forget the feeling that I had when my parents dropped me off to start my freshman year at Pitt…sheer shell shock! (bonus points for alliteration!). Michael’s never done it on his own, not because he can’t, but because he’s never had to. You gave him wings. He’ll fall out of the tree a few times, and then he’ll soar…just like his rockstar mom!

    Eva-Marie Simon

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