This week I have a knot in my stomach. I get it every year around this time as I prepare the kids for back to school. Like most parents, I want the school year to go smoothly. I want their school schedules to blend well with my work schedule and work life balance to be possible. For parents, back to school can be just as stressful as it is for our kids.
As I scurry around, setting up carpools, buying school supplies and stocking up on lunch box snacks, I worry about what's to come and I mourn the end of summer. I want my kids to have great teachers, good class schedules, friends in their classes and trouble-free ride on the school bus. Isn't that what all parents want for their kids?
But like some parents, I struggle with being involved in my kids lives and being "too" involved. Should I help them find out clubs to get involved in or tryout schedules for school sports teams? Should I let them do that on their own?
This morning I read an interview with California psychologist Madeline Levine in The Huffington Post that made me think about how I will conduct myself as the new school starts. In Levine’s new book, "Teach Your Children Well: Parenting for Authentic Success," she says: "Life is difficult. And the idea of keeping your child happy all the time -- that’s about overparenting."
Levine explains, "We understand some of this better with really young kids. If your toddler walks and falls on her butt, you say, “Come on, honey, get up and walk again” You don’t run in and pick her up every time she stumbles or falls because if you did, she’d never learn how to walk. I’m talking about the same ability, not just to tolerate but actually to take pleasure in a child’s backwards and forwards development, his or her successes and failures."
My oldest child will be a junior in high school this year. She doesn't want me to come to her orientation tonight where students get their schedules and walk from class to class. It's killing me.
When I read what Levine had to say, it hit home. She writes: "The tough part of being a parent is tolerating our own anxiety as our kids grow up and separate and become confident."
So, how do we know if we're overparenting?
Levine writes: "The research says that family life works best if as a parent you are reliable, available, consistent and noninterfering. That does not mean oblivious or not paying attention; it means you are not taking over for the kid."
She does think it's okay to step in if parents see symptoms that would suggest that their kid has too much stress.
This year, I vow to walk that fine line, to do my part in setting my kids up to learn, and finding my boundaries so that they can learn life's lessons too.
But for now, that knot in my stomach remains. Do you find yourself anxious as the school year approaches?