It was a rare, lazy Saturday morning when Noah showed up at my bedside with a request.
“Mom, can I make scrambled eggs?”
My first reaction: “Absolutely not. You don’t know how to make scrambled eggs; it will be a mess of apocalyptic proportions; AND you will probably burn the entire house down in the process!”
But it was a lazy Saturday and I thought twice, instead asking, “Do you know how to make them?”
He did. Apparently my Mom had taught him a few YEARS ago and he remembered. He shared with me the steps he would take, from the proper cookware to the ingredients to the process. He left out the cleaning part, which I added for good measure. And I stipulated that I needed to be in the kitchen, arms length from the fire extinguisher. He readily agreed and a deal was struck.
As I hung out with my coffee and watched my 13 year old son make his eggs (quite skillfully I might add), it struck me that HE IS 13 YEARS OLD. The kid needs to know how to make eggs. He needs to know how to use the gas stove.
Without his mother in the kitchen.
Or maybe even without his mother in the (gulp) house.
And while I was there, hanging out in the Room of Realization, I asked myself: “ What else does Noah need to know how to do that I’m not allowing him to experience all in the name of ‘protecting’ him?” That list grew quickly:
- Carrying his own laundry down the steps (too heavy) and then doing it (too much work)
- Staying home alone at night (because we all know that’s when the BAD guys come out – in the DARK)
- Walking or riding his bike to a friend’s house when large streets need to be crossed (because he will walk right into traffic, right?)
- Going the movies with friends, sans parents (because of all the pedophiles that hang out in suburban movie theaters watching Tron …or worse because he might spill his popcorn and not have enough money to buy another)
- Making dinner for the family (see stove, burn house down)
- Walking the dog (because she might break free, all 12 pounds of her)
This list was derived in the space of about 14 seconds at which point I stopped, realizing that Dave and I had some work to do creating personal growth opportunities for our son. In our defense, Noah picks out his own clothes, gets his own breakfast (continental), comes home to an empty house on days I am out of town, and is capable of staying home alone for hours during the day. All of those responsibilities came to him over time. Nerve wracking at first, these activities are now commonplace; but they did not come without a minimal amount of angst from Dave and a considerable amount from me.
Sometimes, it takes a bigger effort NOT to protect our children, NOT to do things for them, and NOT to deprive them of the experiences they need to become functioning adults.
I think the scientific term for this is: Letting Go.
Compared to what’s in store for me Noah, these functional merit badges are a cake walk. Lessons for Living are trivial compared to Lessons for Life. But they are important prerequisites.How will he have the wherewithal to clean up after a botched romance if he doesn’t know how to clean up after botched scrambled eggs? How will he navigate the work force someday if he never learns to navigate the streets of our town? And how will he learn that its okay to be on his own, if we never leave him alone?
I think next weekend I’ll show him how to use the fire extinguisher. Because inherent in every plate of eggs is the wonderful opportunity to burn the house down.
And every time he burns the house down, he learns a lesson.
Every time he doesn’t, I do.