Stand Down, Mama

First thing this morning I saw a Facebook post by my older daughter in which she expressed how difficult it was to get other parents to volunteer at her daughter’s school. I read the couple of commiserating comments and then jumped in with my remedy. It was as reflexive as when my 30-year old doctor hits my knee with that little rubber hammer she keeps in her doctor coat pocket.

I knew just how to motivate those other parents. I was on top of it.

So then I went to get dressed for my umpteenth meeting about homelessness and it occurred to me.

Really? You’re telling a 41-year old person who is an executive in a major health care institution how to deal with her problem mobilizing parent volunteers? Are you supposing she’s never run into recalcitrant co-workers or subordinates, that she’s never had to use her cleverness to get people to follow her lead?

The internal discussions one has in the bathroom putting on make-up can be killers.

So, when was it that you organized parent volunteers, Jan? Well, never, actually. I tried to avoid anything beyond signing the paper that let my kids do stuff other people organized.

Okay, I thought to myself. So you not only have decided that you need to give this grown woman, your daughter, directions on how to get parents to volunteer, you also have never actually done it yourself. Am I getting this straight?

I dropped my mascara and went back to Facebook to delete my comment from her post. What a know-it-all I can be, I thought.

No, that’s not it. I’m her mother.

I have four kids. They are all adults. Still when they have problems or when I sense they have problems, I am all over it like a fucking machine. I’m like the ATM of problem-solving. It’s crazy.

When they were actual kids, I probably solved less than 50% of their problems. They grew to understand my essential powerlessness over their lives long before I did. This makes their tolerance of me and my inevitable list of solutions all the more amazing. They must really love me if they listen to all this stuff I tell them.

Lately, well, this morning, I have started a new approach. When my kids have problems, I’m going to ask myself this question: Is this my problem to solve?

No. It’s not. Stand down, Mama. Go read a book, knit yourself a sweater, solve homelessness.

Get over yourself.



9 Comments on “Stand Down, Mama

  1. thanks so much for this! I’m a single parent of one grown up daughter so this is me with bells on. And I used to be a careers adviser, so of course I know what people should do with their lives. I’d better go look for my puppy…..

  2. The chair of my dissertation committee was a women in her late 60’s, who had a Ph.D., was successful in her profession, had raised 11 children and was still wondering what she could do that was amazing enough to make her mother realize she was an adult.

  3. I moved a long way away from my kids, partly so that I wouldn’t try to run their lives. It’s soooo tempting, even though, like you, I solved less than 50% of their problems when I was entitled to try!

  4. This is a hard lesson for us Moms to learn. As our children maneuver their way to adulthood, we are there to push, to pull, to guide. Finding that delicate balance of knowing when to step back & let go takes us awhile to grasp!

  5. I think I’m going to send this to my mother 😉 I’m 37, I’ve lived in my own for 20 years and have a 16 year old son, 2 cats, and a lizard, all of whom I’ve managed to keep alive and healthy. Still, I can’t even LOOK tired without being given advice on stress and diet and chamomile tea. The funniest part is that I already have to talk myself down from doing the same thing to my kid. You’re just a mama bear, it’s instinctual to think you’ve got it all down pat 😉

    • But then there comes a time when all of a sudden it’s the kid who knows everything! I remember that with my dad -suddenly thinking as he got older and older that I knew exactly what he should do with his life. He quickly disabused me of that kind of thinking though. 🙂

  6. What a couple of my sisters call “not my puppy” . . . if it’s my puppy, I have to take care of it; if not, I don’t. Simple, isn’t it? I’m a problem-solver by nature, too, and if I lived near my sons, I suspect I’d be doing much the same. So it’s a good reminder just now to think about if it’s my puppy before I start taking care of it.
    Thanks a lot; that was thought-provoking. ~ Linne

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