Wednesday, January 26, 2011

To Help or Not To Help

Recently, I had the opportunity to “help” my son, Graham. Well, I thought I was being helpful. Now, I’m not so sure. You see, he was leaving for a 3 day school trip to Jekyll Island where he would study marshes, explore the history of the island, and learn to seine. (Seining involves using a dragnet. Yeah, I didn’t know what it was either.) So this was a pretty exciting trip for my 12 year old.

The night before he was to leave, he was bombarded by homework, so that’s where my “helpful” nature stepped in. While he studied away, I took the packing list and headed to his room to get him ready. I about wore that list out, making sure he had all he needed for the trip. After gathering everything together, we worked together, putting everything into the duffel bag. (Of course, he was also checking to make sure I hadn’t given him any uncool outfits.) With everything packed and ready to go, we headed to bed only to rise early for the 6 am loading of the bus. After putting him on the bus, I stood around waiting to wave them off. There were over 200 7th grade kids going on the trip and I quickly noticed that they’d segregated the boys and girls. I spoke to Graham’s teacher, Mrs. Barrett, who’d been assigned (drew the short straw?) to one of the boys’ buses.

“So, Mrs. Barrett, are you riding with the boys?”


“I’ll be praying for you.” [Chuckle.]

“We’re just hoping they shower every night,” she said.

“Or at least change their underwear,” I responded.

As I was enjoying my joke, I heard my words again… underwear …underwear… underwear.

Oh, my. Oh, no! Yep, you guessed it. It wasn’t on the list, so it didn’t make it in the duffel bag!

I stood there looking up at Graham on the bus and wondered, “Do I have time to go home and get him some underwear?” No. Even if I did, how would I get them to him? Would I walk back on the bus and hand my 7th grade son a bag of underwear? I don’t think so. Then I started wondering, “Does he know he can wash the pair he’s wearing every night? Does he know he can at least turn them inside out? Will he just go commando?”

I felt helpless, which is weird, because I’d been so “helpful.” I waved as the bus pulled away and silently prayed that my son wouldn’t hate me when he made the eventual discovery.

Three days passed with no communication from him. (Not because he hated me but because the kids couldn’t call home.) I picked him up that Friday afternoon, and as soon as we were in the car, I got the answers to my many questions: No, he didn’t know he could wash them. No, he didn’t turn them inside out; they’d gotten wet in the ocean the day they arrived. Yes, he’d gone commando. No, he didn’t hate me. In fact, he showed incredible maturity in the way he handled the entire situation.

I learned something that day. My son may still be my baby, but I don’t need to treat him like one. He’s maturing and he can handle his own responsibilities. Yes, I was trying to be helpful, but I may have robbed him of the opportunity to grow up a little more.

A few days after Graham returned home, I headed to the airport for a quick trip to DC. On the way there, I got a phone call from my 8 year old daughter, Hannah. “Mom, did you pack your underwear?”

1 comment:

Helga said...

Don't worry that you robbed him of the opportunity to grow up. He learned that he can take care of himself even when other people make mistakes that affect him. An important skill for being a grown up. I suspect he spent a lot less time thinking about underwear than you did.