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Life with Liz: Some decisions matter for kids

Published August 31. 2018 10:52PM

Last week we did our last-minute scramble to pick up school supplies and make sure we have sneakers that fit and that all our clothes fit the dress code requirements.

I’m always a little panicky about all the things we’ve forgotten the weekend before school starts, but this year was extra bad.

I usually carry the kids’ back-to-school lists with me all summer, picking up odds and ends as I go.

In the chaos of end-of-the-year paperwork that came home, and all the remodeling we’ve been doing this summer, I just plain old lost them and didn’t follow my usual plan. Both boys have had unusual growth spurts in the past few months, and A is firmly into men’s sizes now, while G is in men’s sizes in some brands, but not in others.

Since we are also now in the world of ordering pants by waist size and inseam, an inch here or there makes hand-me-downs impossible. In other words, I needed to wrangle both boys into a physical store to try on clothes. Ordering online just wasn’t going to cut it this year.

I’ve found myself the victim of two of my favorite sayings. “Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part,” where my own poor planning has created my own emergency. “You’re free to make your own decisions, but you are not free from the consequences of those decisions.” Poor planning and consequences, and I’ve been living with the fallout of both this week.

While I have no doubt that my kids will go out the door on Monday morning looking like a million bucks, and they’ll have every pencil, crayon and folder in place and ready to go, I am guessing that I’m going to lose more than a little sleep and pay a few extra bucks for some overnight shipping to make that happen.

Through this whole thing, I am trying to beat into my kids’ heads about what a mess I’ve made for all of us because I didn’t make good decisions. My kids are getting sick of hearing about it, and I think I may even be scaring them into never being able to make a decision in the future.

With our remodel project, I’ve made a lot of executive decisions about paint colors, or I’ve left the general color up to them, and then obsessed over the exact right shade of blue or red myself. The boys, as is to be expected, have found my obsession hilarious.

“Red is red, Mom!” was the repeated refrain as I stood in front of the wall of paint samples in Lowe’s. G has a surefire way to solve all paint questions: go with the one named after food. This came up after I was agonizing over “sunrise” and “peach jam” but he also tried to employ it when I was deciding between “school house” and “strawberry preserves.” In both cases, I ended using his method.

As we’ve been cleaning out our house this summer, I’ve asked the kids to really focus on paring down their stashes of toys, leftover sports equipment, the detritus of school years past, and just keep things that they play with regularly or that mean something to them.

Of course, we have found long forgotten about toys that the kids have delighted in rediscovering and now insist that they can’t live without them. They’ve also found some relics from their early childhood that I have fond memories of, but they can’t believe that they ever played with them and they are quick to toss them in the donation bin.

This isn’t the best example of the impact of making the right or wrong decision, but at least it’s giving them practice and forcing them to consider consequences and the long-term impact of their decision and I’m learning to live with the fact that they want to toss the rubber duckie that used to be an essential part of tubby time.

As A heads into his second year of middle school and G winds down his last year of elementary school, I am getting more and more worried about the decisions that face them and if they’re prepared to handle them. A will be joining more extracurricular activities, which means more unsupervised time with his peers. G is already starting to assume the swagger that comes with being one of the big “men” on campus. As I watched them agonize over what sneakers to pick and which “fun” folder they wanted to put in their mandatory clear backpack, I worry that I haven’t let them make enough “tough” decisions or I haven’t let them live with enough consequences of bad decisions.

You can’t get studying for a pre-algebra test overnighted by Amazon Prime. Regretting my decision to go with Apricot Jam instead of Peach Jelly every single time I use the bathroom or regretting choosing the three-ring binder with the kitten instead of the sparkly unicorn is a lot different from regretting a decision to dabble in drugs just because some friends are doing it.

While I suspect that I’m going to be selecting a new color and repainting the bathroom in the near future, I’m going to let us live with this completely wrong color for a little while, so we all have a daily reminder of how unpleasant it is to live with the wrong decision.

Liz Pinkey is a contributing writer to the Times News. Her column appears weekly in our Saturday feature section.

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