By Annette McLoughlin
There’s a little table at Rye Middle School where parents, responding to frantic calls or texts, deposit their children’s forgotten lunches, notebooks, projects, and gym clothes, for them to collect later, between classes.
I have run all of the above and plenty of less urgent items for the three of my four children who have passed through the school. And though I’ve tried not to give it much thought in those dashing-in moments, I’ve always felt a twinge of uneasiness when walking away from the table; an inner voice wondering if the time has come to stop the coddling. But I ignored the feeling as it always seemed a relatively harmless act and preferable to dealing with the angst and conflict that would result if I refused.
That was until the school moved the table from just inside the front doors the way down the hall, past the lunch room, and by the main office. The relocation has made any attempt of a covert dash to The Table, pretty conspicuous. In fact, I’ve been on the wrong side of a finger wagging when “caught” red-handed. Although in my heart, I knew that I deserved the rebuke, I was right back, probably a week later, behind sunglasses and the same sense of shame.
We all want our children to succeed, we want them to like us, and sometimes, above all, we want to minimize conflict. So maybe for many of us, these drop-offs represent the effort to pick our battles. And really, in middle school it seems logical that we should ignore some of the seemingly countless small conflicts for those inevitable big and scary ones.
I’m sure the administration moved The Table in an effort to thwart our good, if misguided intentions; to help us, really. And I understand the concept of teaching our children to learn from their mistakes. It makes perfect sense. If we are to teach them to solve problems, shouldn’t we allow them to have those problems? Making mistakes and facing the consequences teaches them how to think on their feet and adjust to difficult situations, which in turn, begins to build independence and impart important life skills. How better to learn to pack sneakers the night before and to do those projects before the 11th hour than by suffering the indignity of sitting out a gym period or feeling the disappointment of losing points on a project? It all makes perfect sense, but it’s hard.
Strong are those parents who can hold sight of the long-term gains and the cumulative lessons that beget not giving into the myriad small battles that make up a childhood. Those who can say, “Sorry, I’m not running that into school. Try harder to remember next time.” I salute you. And I’m calling you when my youngest gets to sixth grade. I’m going to need help.
But one more thought on The Table and a last defense for us enablers. Is it possible that we are doing it for ourselves just a little? Because here’s the thing; it’s when your children get to middle school that you really start to notice that their little-ness has almost completely slipped through your fingers. And it’s with this recognition that you truly begin to see that their growing up comes hand-in-hand with growing away – and of needing you less. So, is it possible that we do all of this counter-productive dashing and dropping because we realize that we are on the precipice of that heart-wrenching eventuality of letting go, and that we want to be needed just a little bit longer?
I, for one, am grateful for the enable table and for the mercy of the middle school in allowing us to keep it — albeit in a less-than-discreet spot — because we all need to let go at our own pace.