Do Parents HELP Too Much?

I have been struggling lately with how much help I should give Cailin. Between selling Girl Scout cookies, crafty school projects, and stuff around the house, I feel like every day I am faced with a ‘should I or shouldn’t I do it’ moment. I agonize over the choice, get all upset, call my mom… and so on. It’s ridiculous.

The other day, the back and forth ended with a phone call to mom, who thankfully reassured me that I made the right decision. Cailin’s school was having a fundraiser. She was supposed to find sponsors who would sponsor her in the “Get Active” day at school, with all money going towards new gym/PE equipment. Any kid who raised $75 got a t-shirt. Cailin wanted that t-shirt. However, the day before the money was due, she had only asked my parents, who gave her $50. And that was it. The kid had three weeks. I was getting ready to write the check (my parents just put the money in my account.) but I couldn’t decide if I should give her the extra $25 to get the shirt or not.

Here’s how the internal argument went:

She didn’t ask us. She NEVER asked Caleb or me. She didn’t ask anyone, except Grandpa Ricky. So why should I give her the money? It’s a stupid t-shirt that I’ll just end up throwing away. She needs to do the work.

But she wants the t-shirt. It’s just $25. I have $15 in cash! It’s so awkward for a little kid to ask people for money! It would make her happy to get the shirt and know that she’d raised that much money for her school.

Back and forth and back and forth. It’s exhausting, honestly. I finally decided not to give her the money. I don’t even think she remembers the shirt was a possibility.

She’s also had a lot of projects lately that require some parental involvement. She’s a Girl Scout, and as I’m sure you know, there is that magical time of year called cookie season. I knew I had friends that wanted cookies, and good LORD it would have been so much easier to just text them all, or send a message on Facebook or something. But I’m NOT the freaking Girl Scout!

So instead, I sat with her and helped her memorize what each cookie is like, and how much each box costs, and practice what to say each time. It was frustrating – mostly because her memory is as horrible as mine – but man, when she started selling the cookies and she realized she knew all the answers to the questions she was being asked? Awesome. And for me, it was great to see. I LOVED the faces of the Marines when they’d say, oh, man I love that peanut butter chocolate one and my happy little Daisy would go “oh! That’s the tagalong, they are right here!” She was so proud of herself, and that’s what I wanted.

Her teacher has also started sending home family projects. In January, we had to decorate a snowman. The teacher sent home one of those foam snowmen. Simple. Caleb and I ‘helped,’ but it was Cailin’s project. She dressed it for a luau complete with a lei and a hula skirt. She did most of the work, because it’s her school project. Right?

Then I dropped her off at school. And saw some of these other snowmen. One was on a DIORAMA. With fake snow. What.the.hell. There is no way a first grader came up with that idea! So then the argument started. I felt horrible. Why didn’t I help more? I could have done something like that! I TOLD her that the luau snowman didn’t need a random pink puff on its hip!

In February, it was a Valentine’s card box. This time, I noticed that it wasn’t entirely a choice between how much I should help – it was a question of my patience and planning. She literally just wanted to paint the box hot pink, and then throw glitter, sequins, puff balls, and ribbon all over it. My slightly OCD heart almost had a heart attack. I had to refrain from telling a six year old to “get a freaking plan”. Guys, in case you were not aware, that’s not really a nice thing to say to a six year old. I managed to calmly sit with her and we came up with a plan.

But then she’d veer from the plan and I had to restrain myself. Because, even aside from the fact that she was, in fact, hot gluing ribbons in mismatching colors (which totally ruined the black/pink/silver theme we had going) ALL OVER the box, I had to remember: it was HER box. It’s HER project. So I called Caleb over, who is so much calmer about things like that than I am, and walked away. Together, they finished the box and it looked exactly like a Valentine’s Day box made by a six year old should look.

The box turned out ok, she was proud of the snowman, she doesn’t remember the shirt, and she sold more cookies than any of the other girls in her troop. So I guess despite my anxiety over all this, I’m doing something right. There has to be some trick to make deciding when and how to help easier. Until then…it’s a good thing mom is on speed dial.

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