I find it hard as a parent to let my kids fail.
My son was getting ready for soccer practice. I used to remind him, item by item, to pack all his things.
"Do you have your water bottle? How about your cleats? Your shin pads? Ball? Socks?"
I got tired of reminding him. To be more accurate, I got tired of needing to know. One day, I had him make a soccer checklist and post it to the door.
So that evening, before leaving for practice, I just said, "Do you have everything you need?"
We entered the chilly winter night. Our boots crunched in the snow. The car door locks made that "shuk-shuk" sound as I unlocked them with the key fob. We drove away and picked up a teammate. Monday nights are my turn for the milk-run carpool.
As we pulled away from teammate's house, my son said, "Dad, I forgot my socks."
"You're joking, right?"
"No." He took a deep breath. Exhaled audibly.
I took a deep breath. Exhaled audibly.
"We can go back, we still have time," he said.
I've bailed him out before. We did have time.
"We're not going back," I said. "Packing your bag is your responsibility."
"But Dad, we're not far from home. And we have time."
"Yes. But if I always bail you out, I'm not doing you any favours in the long run. You'll have to go with no socks. Or maybe someone can lend you a pair when we get there."
He shuffled in his seat a bit. I wanted to go back, help him out. But I resisted. Resistance is not futile.
"You understand why I'm doing this. It's not to be mean. It's so you develop more independence. So you don't need to rely on us to always remind you."
We hit the road. My decision was measured and defensible. Why did I have this knot in my stomach? Maybe it's because I knew I had caused my boy some temporary discomfort. But my job as a parent isn't to make sure my kids are always comfortable.
I think a big part of being a parent is to help my kids grow into good, responsible, caring, confident adults. Sometimes they'll have to be uncomfortable. Sometimes I'll have to be uncomfortable.
Sometimes it's better to step outside our comfort zones. That's when you grow.
We drove under the amber-orange glow cast by the street lights along the roadway. My son asked teammate if he had an extra pair of socks. Teammate pulled out a pair.
"Thanks, man," my son said.
Part of me was glad he acquired some socks. A bigger part of me wished he didn't. I think the lesson would have sunk in more. At least he was resourceful. I suppose he knew I was serious when I didn't turn back, so lesson learned.
I held my ground for a soccer practice. A bigger question is: Would I have done the same if it was a game?
I have to be honest. I really don't know. If that situation arises, I'll let you know whether I pass or fail.