Wednesday, August 06, 2008

I'm not helping (updated)

Yep. Gary lost his wallet. It is either somewhere in the house or else it was lost or stolen while traveling. He has called the airports for lost and found. He is taking it fairly well, not pouting or expecting us to fix the situation for him. He lost $30, his summer bus pass (good until the end of August), his medical card, and his social security card. And yes, I have told him not to carry around his social security card. He normally keeps it in his lock box in his room, but he decided he might need it on vacation (don't ask me why), and put it in his wallet. I'm not sure what to do about that. A social security card is not a good thing to have lost or stolen. We have the numbers from both of the cards in our records.

I think he is most bummed out about the bus pass. He needs that pass to see his girlfriend. The bus is 65 cents if the driver believes he is under 18 and $1.00 if he doesn't. He rides out to see her every other day. I'll buy him a new one in September, but for the next three weeks he is in trouble. Maybe I will think of some cleaning job that I want done that I am wiling to pay him a little money for. Or maybe he will find his wallet under his bed. That would be nice.

He also lost or had confiscated all of his toiletries that he insisted he had to take on vacation. When I pointed out that there would be shampoo and soap in the hotels and the cottages he was appalled. Other People would be using those too! He got everything past security on the way out, which shocked me, but what he did not leave in the last hotel was trashed by security on the way back. Maybe I should just give him cash to replace them and see if he doesn't decide that the cheap stuff is okay. Or he could just use the same products that other people are using. I mean, I understand not wanting to use the same deodorant, but shampoo and body wash?

This is one of those times when what I want to do is totally at odds with what I believe I should do.

I am a firm believer in parenting by natural consequences. I rarely punish. I don't even impose logical consequences all that often. I never use "consequence" as a verb -- but that is a pet peeve and a different topic entirely. I think that kids learn and grow the best by dealing with the consequences of their own actions. Intellectually I think the lost/stolen wallet situation is an opportunity for growth that I could never give him. He can and will figure out how to get a new social security card, medical card, and how to earn just enough money to ride the bus all on his own. When he does, he will feel proud. What he needs from me is neither to be rescued or to be scolded. I do not help by berating him, by saying things like, "it is your own fault that you can't ride the bus. Next time be more careful." He also will not profit in any way if I rescue him. If I run out and buy him a new bus pass, or give him money, or go through the steps to get a new social security and medical card for him, I will have taken away from him an opportunity to grow.

My impulse is to do BOTH. I want to buy him a new bus pass while scolding him for losing the old one. I want to go buy him cheap shampoo and deodorant and tell him that this is a natural consequence of not following my good advice about not taking all those things on the plane and next time I give him advice he should just listen to me, shouldn't he?

But I am holding myself back. I am being sympathetic and unhelpful. I am saying things like, "Oh no! How will you get to see your girlfriend? Oh, you found change in your room? That's great!" I am even managing to sound sincere and not sarcastic, at least I think I am.

One of my favorite childrearing books gives the advice: don't do something; just stand there!

It is a LOT more difficult than it sounds.

update: He found the wallet. It was on his bed the whole time.


  1. Blogger ate my comment!

    I sent my Gary out to the trampoline to look for the wallet but he didn't find it. :(

    I understand about wanting to berate and fix because my thought was, "Hey, I could send him some name brand stuff from our storage, but why the heck didn't he just listen?!"

    I really hope the wallet turns up. That's a darn hard lesson. I still remember with perfect detail the wallet that I lost when I was nine.

  2. p.s. I would very much like to see more posts on what your parenting philosophies and techniques actually entail.

    Please? :)

  3. We had a natural consequence yesterday. The Kid wanted to buy a doll, we got to the checkout, and she didn't have enough money.

    I understand how you felt. Part of me wanted to rescue her, because I knew she had money in the bank. Instead, I told the clerk, "I guess we won't be buying that after all," and to The Kid, I said, "Bummer, I hate when that happens."

  4. And sometimes things just work out.

  5. Why is it that there are blog postings that fit the very question running through our heads? Thank you. Maybe I should call my google reader the Mystic 8 Ball. LOL


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