I jumped up from my computer and sprinted to my front entry-way. Finding my twenty-year-old, six-foot-tall son there, I screamed, “Hi honey!” and leaped into his arms. Tim was a junior at UCLA, and this was his first visit in four months.
“I’m so glad you’re home,” I said, excited to see my baby boy.
“Me too, mom,” he replied, taking me into his arms and squeezing me tight. “I’ve missed you.”
Wanting to relish every single moment of this mother/son bonding, I hung on to his massive frame and realized he now towered over me. I looked up into his sweet face, and said, “I think you’ve grown a few inches.”
“Maybe a little. I’m not a little boy anymore,” he proudly stated, and then with a wink he announced, “I brought you a surprise.”
“You brought me a surprise?” I cried out. “You never bring me surprises. What is it?”
“Well, I was sitting in my room at the frat house trying to think of something I could get you that would bring back memories of us,” he replied, while carefully detaching my arms from his neck. “I know it must get pretty lonely here now that all of us are gone.”
Astounded at his newfound sensitivity, warmth, and caring, I anxiously waited to open my gift. He was learning more in college than ever I expected.
He leaned over and kissed me again on the cheek. Stepping aside, he pointed at the pile of belongings by the front door, “There!”
“There? There where?” I asked looking around.
Against the wall, all I saw were his golf clubs, suitcase, and an overstuffed duffel bag that stood almost as tall as him. Picking the sack up, he smiled, “I brought you a project.”
“You brought me your dirty clothes?” I asked, annoyed and confused.
“Yeah! I’m sure life isn’t the same around here without it. Don’t worry,” he laughed while hugging me once more. “It’s only three months worth and I’ve sorted the whites from the darks.”
Dragging the bag to the laundry room, he proceeded to dump what appeared to be at least eight loads all over the floor – whites, darks, towels, sheets, and extremely smelly athletic apparel. Smiling broadly at what he perceived to be a wonderful accomplishment, he leaned into my ear, and whispered, “I love you, mom.” Then, off he went to make phone calls to his buddies.
I know I should be angry, I thought to myself, looking at the mountain range erupting at my feet, as if a 9.0 angry earthquake had just exploded forcing the entire earth’s surface upward. I can just hear what all my friends will say, “Jackie, you’re too easy on your kids. You’re just enabling them.”
Now I know what an enabler is: someone who makes it easier for an addict (in my case my lazy child) to continue their behavior by rescuing them from their consequences or by supportive actions that fuel their habit.
For twenty-seven years, my main occupation had been raising four rambunctious kids. It was a job I took seriously and executed with pride. I wanted life to be stress-free, fun, and magical for them.
Was I the typical helicopter mother who hovered overhead, roto-blades swooshing in concentric circles with lightening speed ready to swoop down at a moment’s notice to bail them out? Absolutely!
If a lunch or homework assignment was forgotten, I appeared on the playground at recess to hand it over. When a science project was due the next day and missing that one key ingredient (at 10:00 pm), off I ran to Walgreen’s to pick it up. And to protect their little feet, I drove them to and from school every day, even though the campus was only half a mile away. Heavy backpacks can destroy a young person’s spine for the rest of their lives!
Yes. No doubt about it – I was an enabler, but I like to think this word, which typically conjures a negative response, meant something positive too.
In my opinion, to enable can also mean to turn on, to activate knowledge, trigger creative tendencies, initiate a spiritual life and set in motion the freedom to make choices that are right for an individual. Enabling gives the power to take control of a situation and one’s life.
The key to enabling (whether it’s of yourself or those you love) is to know how much to give in any situation. This knowledge comes from knowing yourself. When we are truly connected with all that we are, we are in control and generate our life experiences. Self-awareness gives us the options for discovering how to reach success, personal fulfillment and ultimately, happiness.
I’m here to proclaim it’s perfectly alright to be an enabler (as long as it’s not with drugs or alcohol). Permit yourself to do the things that help you grow and make you happy – even if others may disagree.
I happen actually to love doing the kid’s laundry. It takes me back to a simpler time for all of us. I do, however, draw the line at paying their speeding tickets.
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