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Children / Motherhood

I Can’t Always Watch You

I Can’t Always Watch You

When my daughter CJ was young, I took her to the grocery store with me. As usual, she climbed up to hang onto the side of the cart, and as usual, I told her to get down.

We made our way through the produce department without incident. Then I stopped the cart and turned my back on it – and her – as I looked through the specialty cheeses. Just as I picked up a ball of mozzarella, I heard a shriek and a crash. I turned to see her lying on the floor with the cart on top of her.

Another shopper was already rushing to lift the cart off her. I sat on the floor and pulled her into my lap, where she sobbed, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’m sorry,” as I smoothed her hair. One employee went to get us another container of blackberries to replace the one that had broken open when it fell out of the cart, and another employee knelt down beside us to see if CJ was all right.

As her sobs subsided – with a little encouragement from me: “Please settle down. Not so loud.” – I gently asked her, “Were you hanging onto the side of the cart?” She nodded. I went on, “Haven’t I told you many times not to do that?”

She nodded again, but then added, “Mommy, you weren’t watching me.”

“CJ, I can’t always watch you. Sometimes I have to trust you to do the right thing.”

By far, this has turned out to be the most difficult part of motherhood for me – letting my children learn painful lessons on their own. I can tell them what they should and shouldn’t do, but at some point I have to let them go and trust them to do as I’ve told them. And I have to hope that they won’t get hurt too badly – physically or emotionally – if they insist on learning those painful lessons first hand.

I know there will be many more tears to wipe away, but I’m betting I’ll never have to remind CJ again not to hang onto the side of the grocery cart.

-Julie Marsh

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  1. I agree this is one of the tough parts of motherhood. But just think how difficult it will be when they get older and they make decisions you know will impact their future in a negative way. That, I think, will be my biggest challenge.

  2. Great post. I sometimes think its harder on the moms than the kids when something bad happens and there are negative consequences. But think about it this way. You are teaching your daughter valuable lessons at a time when the consequences are relatively safe. Better she learn to respect the danger of a shopping cart when the worst that can happen is it falls on her and scares her than to have her disrespect the power of a vehicle and the consequence is life-threatening later. Sounds like a drastic comparison but its true.

    Better that our kids learn not to steal and be dishonest when they are young than to have them learn the lesson through adult consequences later. So as heartbreaking as it feels, you really are doing your daughter a loving service by allowing her to struggle with minor consequences now, rather than major ones later.

    Good for you!

  3. I agree! My girlfriend has always micro-managed her childrens lives. Now the oldest is a teenager and has made several terrible decisions. He was never allowed to fail or make a mistake and deal with the consequenses, he has no concept of self-control because he was never allowed or required to develop one. It seems hard now to see them fall off the cart, but in the long run it’s one of the most important things you can do for them.

  4. Love this post as I think it deals with one of our greatest fears as mothers: the inability to protect our children from all harm. As Amber says, I often wonder how I will handle watching my daughter make the same mistakes we all make (and hopefully learn from). I know my Mom couldn’t stop me from making them. Will my daughter be any different?

  5. I haven’t had to deal with this yet, my son is only 10 months old, but I know it is going to be difficult.

    My own mother still has issues with this and wants to parent my parenting, but at some point you just have to trust that you have done a good job and your kids are going to have to make mostly the right decisions and learn the rest for themselves. I bet you are right though, you’ll probably never have to correct her on the shopping cart again!

  6. So scary. And yet, so much better for her to face consequences in a shopping cart at 1 mph than in a car (several years down the road) at 40 mph.

    You showed great instincts.

  7. Julie, I’m so sorry that happened to CJ!

    It’s hard to not wrap them in bubble wrap and make them wear a helmet the moment they get out of bed…isn’t it? 🙂

  8. im new and just read your blog….my son is two and hes done somethings taht you tell him not to do and he ends up hurting himself

  9. I absolutely loved this post. It’s a great challenge of raising kids.. There are some things they will have to learn on their own. You said it well!

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