It starts early:
Should we PUT DOWN our four-month old (let him "cry it out") or PICK him UP when he is fussy? Holding him tends to calm him. He sleeps better. He stops crying. He is basically happier. It continues: How about the daily battle of knowing how much to help our budding adult children (pick them up when they are “fussy”) or let them figure things out on their own (many times painful and uncomfortable)? Helping them tends to calm them. They sleep better. They stop “fussing.” They are basically happier. It never ends: What about an aging parent’s battle about how much to help their youngest son with the care of his children? He lost his wife about a year ago and the situation is complicated. They are 84. He is 56. Helping him calms the situation. Everyone sleeps better. The “fussing” is abated. He is basically happier. No matter how old our child is, the battle of whether or not to PICK UP or PUT DOWN is one we will fight until our last breath. It can be teaching a baby to sleep by themselves, driving a forgotten homework assignment to school for your elementary daughter, purchasing a car for your new driver, allowing an adult child to live at home rent-free for a season, watching grandchildren for your middle-aged son, the list goes on and on. The questions are basic: How much do I "PICK UP," help, console, “save the day,” when my child has a need or even a want? How much do I let them “ride out the storm,” figure it out on their own, “PUT them DOWN” so to speak? Where is that line drawn? When is that line drawn? How is that line drawn? What choice should we make so that we are promoting emotional health and good boundaries, yet making sure the other feels safe and completely loved? We fight this battle on the daily, no matter how we old we are or how simple or complicated the situation is. Our hearts burn with this question: "What should I do in “X” situation with “such-and-such” child? Do I PICK them UP or PUT them DOWN?" If I “PICK them UP,” the voices in my cute little brain shout loudly. You are doing too much. Your boundaries are too lax. They need to learn for themselves. This is unhealthy. This is bad. If I don't help and PUT them DOWN, I hear opposing and equally noisy voices. You aren’t doing enough. Your boundaries are too rigid. They need to feel loved and not alone. This is unhealthy. This is bad. Ugh. Double Ugh. So what do we do when we feel trapped in this impossible and never-ending battle?
We remind ourselves that even though the questions seem easy, the situations are complicated. No two are the same and rarely is there a quick answer or fix.
We recognize that this dilemma is part of being a parent, period. There’s no getting out of it.
We realize that other parents are in the same boat. We all need each other, not to judge and give solutions, but to listen and give grace.
We stop asking ourselves if the decision is right or wrong, black or white, good or bad. Rarely are decisions that we make all one way or the other. That’s an exhausting treadmill and only promotes fear, guilt and shame. Either decision will have both difficult and wonderful attached to it. Usually it’s some combination of beautiful and messy.
We ask these questions instead: What do I really need? Why do I want to help? What do they really need? We can take the long-view and dig a little deeper.
We allow ourselves to change our minds if we need to. We give ourselves permission to re-evaluate and get counsel from others. There is great freedom here.
We show ourselves boatloads of grace no matter what we decide. We remind ourselves that God loves both of us and He can come in and provide all that’s lacking no matter what decision is made in the moment.
And lastly, we ask God for wisdom because He gives it GENEROUSLY and FREELY to all without finding fault, and we trust that will be given to us (James 1:5).
Do not forget, my friend, that we are in the same "mom boat," paddling along, trying not to sink and, at the same time, enjoying the big, bumpy, beautiful ride together. From my heart to yours.