“Mom, can you come get me?”

Contrary to how it may seem, we really try hard not to “spoil” our children.  We don’t want them to grow up being disrespectful or feeling entitled to anything. Sure, they have TVs and X-boxes (Christmas gifts and/or purchased by someone else) and phones (our hand-me-downs), but they have chores and responsibilities as well. They make good grades; generally behave well (with the occasional attitude); help with laundry, keeping the house clean, and making meals; and, until recently, helped with farm work. We’re not short-order cooks (they eat what we cook or they don’t eat) and tell them “no” to new items more often than “yes” (“it’s not in the budget,” is a phrase they all know well). And though I often call my van their taxi, they’re not allowed more than 2 extracurricular activities during the school year.

photo credit: banpei via photopin cc
photo credit: banpei via photopin cc

I’m not saying all this to toot my own horn or claim that we’re perfect parents. We make our share of mistakes, just like everyone else, and I’m sure there’s something for which my kids will one day seek therapy. I’m saying it because I have a genuine dilemma, a question of good parenting versus “spoiling.”

It’s a question I’ve had before, but one that comes up so unexpectedly and so infrequently, that I don’t take much time to ponder if I’ve made the right decision afterwards. I’m pondering now.

The Girl, now 13-1/2, loves to go to friends’ houses for sleepovers.  She’s never been afraid to sleep away from home and has even spent multiple nights away (at grandma’s or her best friend’s house). Typically, these sleepovers happen without incident. I can count on one hand the number of times she’s called me late at night asking me to come get her. Last night was one of them.

The few times this has happened it’s been because she “didn’t feel well” (with no fever or symptoms) or “just wanted to come home.” Every time it has happened, I have had a (albeit momentary) struggle: Do I go get her just because she wants to come home or do I make her stay and “tough it out” until a decent hour? And every time I’ve gone to get her. Just like last night.

I tell myself that I’m doing it because I want her to know I’m always available … especially as she enters teen years … to come get her out of any situation that she’s uncomfortable in. But then I second guess myself, wondering if I’m just babying her, if I should allow her to work through the situation on her own?

photo credit: Chung Ho Leung via photopin c
photo credit: Chung Ho Leung via photopin c

And I’m wondering even more because she’s going to a full week of band camp for the first time next week.

Which is it? When I pick her up early, am I being a good parent or “spoiling” her? Am I doing more harm than good? What would you do?

3 Comments

  1. Kristin O.

    It’s hard. Have you talked about what’s bothering her? If there’s any discomfort/mean girl stuff, I say pick her up. It’s good for her to know you have her back for the things she can’t handle (think future HS party with too much partying). But if it’s more general anxiety, it gets trickier. You want her to work it out on her own. I’d suggest ground rules prior to sleepover–she can call twice before 11pm, and/or text you if she’s feeling anxious (could borrow spouse phone if she doesn’t have one) so she knows you’re there. Or agree no sleepovers unless she can make it through night.
    It’s not black and white, is it? In the end, we want independent kids who aren’t afraid to ask for help when they need it… shades of grey pop up all the time. Good luck, Stephanie. And good conversation to put out there.

  2. Candy

    I understand what you are saying. Right now my oldest is 8 so I would without a doubt go get her if she asked for exactly the same reasons you stated. But if she were older, I don’t know. I agree with Kristin in that it would depend on the reason she wants to leave, because there is a point in time where our kiddos do need to “tough it out”. But knowing when that is is hard. I mean, really I just want to hug them and never let them go – not go to school or sleepovers or ever leave my sight. But that’s probably not practical. I think we’d all get a little cranky if I did that.

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