Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Leadership and Responsibility

I got four hours of sleep last night, so I was running on fumes and caffeine all day.  But the weather has been unseasonably beautiful here, and the kids wanted to go to the park.  I gave them the old "We'll see..." and said, "It depends on Jack's nap..."  Last time we went to the park we took the neighbors (N & S) because their mom is pregnant and is still puking in her third trimester and girlfriend needs a break, plus they're great kids and no trouble, and the girls play really well with them...  So it's a win/win/win.  Anyway, I told MG to go to the bathroom and get her shoes on, then Claire, then I realized we needed dog food so I was going to change the plan.  I was going to say, "Let's go to the fun pet store with all the critters and get dog food, and then we'll go to Sonic," because I knew they'd like that equally as much as they'd like going to the park, and it would require a lot less maternal energy.

Meanwhile, MG had gotten shoes and used the facilities and run outside in her enthusiasm to go.  And when she got out there she saw N & S and invited them along to the park.  So I come outside with Claire and Jack, prepared to offer this New and Improved Plan, and here come N & S running down the street.

"N & S can come with us, they asked their mom!" she said.

"Mary Grace!" I said through my teeth, "What did you do?"

"I asked them..."

"You KNOW you're not supposed to make plans or invite friends along without checking with me first!  I wanted to go to the pet store and Sonic instead, and now I have to disappoint your friends and be the bad guy.  I am not happy with you for putting me in this position!" I whispered, as the girls ran down the block.  "Now I have to tell them they can't come!"

Here's where it gets good....

"No, Mommy," she said, "I created this problem.  I'll take care of it."  She had this resigned look on her little face, and she kind of sighed as she undid her seat belt and started to get out of the car to tell her friends they couldn't come to the park.

And thank goodness I was able to take a step back and stop being tired and selfish for a minute, thank goodness I was able to say, "No, no...  Just...  It's ok.  Sit back down.  We'll go to the park," just as N & S got to the car.  "I have to go get Mary Grace's Daisy stuff," I said, "You guys get in, and I'll be right back."

I called BJ and told him the story while I was inside.  "Wow," he said.  "There are high school kids, college kids...  Heck, I know ADULTS who can't say, 'I made a mistake and I'll fix it,' and take responsibility like that!" he said.

"I know," I said.  "I was impressed."

Even though I was SO tired, we went to the park.  I even stopped and got drinks for the kids and an enormous coffee for myself (caffeine is almost like sleep, right?)  I called a friend and she met us there.  We met some other little girls at the playground who were about the same age as our kids and wanted to play.  And I got to stand back and see Mary Grace as the leader she's becoming - as someone who isn't afraid to make things happen and be spontaneous, someone who wants everyone around her to have a good time, someone who will take other kids who are shy or uncomfortable under her wing to include them in everyone else's fun, someone who is going to be a really cool adult someday (sooner than I think).

When I had a minute to talk to her privately I said, "I want you to know that I was really proud of the way you took responsibility for your mistake, today, and that was why I decided to go ahead and take you guys to the park.  You're growing into such a wonderful girl, and I'm really proud of you."

So we dropped her off at Daisies, I took the neighbor kids home, then Claire and Jack and I went to the pet store and got the dog food while MG was busy, and we picked her up on our way home.  It worked out better, that way, than it probably would have the other way.

It occurs to me that in order to raise a child, especially a girl, to be a good leader, you have to actually let her lead.  I am so grateful to the Patron Saint of Parenting (Erma Bombeck?) that I had the sense to let her lead today.

And now I am going to go to bed.


Bev said...

Great post by a mom raising great children.

Rob Monroe said...

That's great parenting, you two! (I assume your ghost-reader still gets these, if not please forward!)

Clearly she sees you setting great examples of taking responsibility, even when it is not fun or easy.

Great job MG!