Ok, so I have never claimed to be a perfect mother or a child-rearing expert, but I am a mom and so I’d like to write about something that I think is important. Allowing our children to make their own decisions.
Recently, my daughters got a letter in the mail for the 2014 Miss Teen Minneapolis Pageant. They both decided to go to the information session/interview at the Radisson Hotel downtown. They dressed professionally, did their hair, and were excited and nervous. The woman who was speaking rubbed me the wrong way a little bit, but I brushed if off. The girls both decided that they wanted to do the pageant, we looked at fancy dresses, they fretted over whether or not they’d “get in” as the lady at the event said not everyone would. They started making a list of all the people and local businesses they could ask to sponsor them, as they’d have to get $495 a piece in sponsorships to get in.
Being the person I am though, this all just seemed to be happening so fast and I wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting them into – so I started digging around on the internet. There were HORRIBLE reviews! I guess the company that runs the pageant has changed the name of the pageants constantly in order to avoid the bad reputation that would follow, there were stories of pageants being more like cattle calls, ill qualified judges, judges who said they’d never judge another one of these pageants ever again as they were told how to score and treated rudely, people in the pageant industry who said this is a very poorly run pageant, etc. Some of the ones claiming it was a scam for requiring $495 in sponsorships, I found just didn’t know pageants as every other pageant I looked at requires some sort of sponsorship as well. I also looked at the Better Business Bureau website and the company who runs the pageants has a B rating. Not horrible, but at the same time, it was hard to even track down the name of the company that runs them so maybe some people don’t know in order to file complaints?
I shared some of my misgivings with my mother who immediately said “don’t walk away, RUN!” I also shared some of my misgivings with my kids who didn’t want to hear a word of it at first – they were doing the pageant and that was that! When I told my mom I felt torn because they really wanted to do the pageant, and just have the experience whether they won or not she said “If they both wanted to jump off a cliff would you let them?” Well….I guess it depends. How tall is the cliff? What is at the bottom? Are they attached to a bungee cord? And are they old enough to decide to take on that risk themselves? (don’t’ cover your mouth in horror – people go cliff diving all the time!) With the pageant I determined that it WAS a legitimate pageant, although maybe just not the most well-run one and not one that would really afford them very many opportunities if they won. So I decided I would send all of the information to the girls that I had on this particular pageant, as well as information on other more reputable pageants and let them make the decision for themselves. I told them I 100% supported whatever decision they made. Some will cry “that’s a decision you should make for them – you’re their mother!” Yes, I am. And I’d have been there on pageant day to make sure they were safe. To wipe their tears if they lost and were upset. But ultimately, if it’s something they REALLY wanted to do they’d have to work for it, get sponsorships, show up for training, do their best on pageant day. And, if it was a crappy production that ran too long, that wasn’t judged fairly, etc. – what would that hurt? They’d learn that sometimes you do things that turn out not to be the best. That sometimes things run longer than they’re supposed to. That sometimes the “prize” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Ultimately, both girls decided NOT to do this pageant. My 13 year old because “I just wasn’t really that into it anyways.” She didn’t want me posting ANYTHING about it on Facebook for her friends to see, so I think she just decided if she’s embarrassed to admit she’s doing a pageant, why is she doing it? My 10 year old looked at some of the other pageants and decided on one that has an A+ rating with the BBB, is held every two years, and focuses on academics, community service, and personality and NO swimsuit competition which was a huge plus in her eyes! So, she has until Spring 2015 to beef up her resume for that one! (She doesn’t give herself enough credit, is worried she hasn’t “done enough” yet although she’s done WAY more than a lot of 10 year olds I know! But, if you have any good volunteer/community service projects you know of – send em our way!).
One lesson learned here is that often our kids WILL make the same decision we would have made if we give them all the same information we have available or have them go out and research the information on their own! The important thing is empowering them to make the decision and feel like the decision is theirs. And even if they don’t make the same decision we would have made, isn’t part of life to make mistakes and learn from them? Wouldn’t you rather they make some of those mistakes while they’re still at home where we can help them pick up the pieces? Or…remember….just because the decision they make is different than the one we would have made doesn’t mean it’s wrong at all – they could actually make a decision that is better for them! I let my oldest decide what Middle School she would go to, she made the decision that she felt was right for her even though it was different than what I would have choosen for her. When she struggled in 6th grade it was hard not to pull her and make her go to the one I wanted, but she made it through and has built some strong friendships. Now, she’s in her last year of Middle School and contemplating what High School she wants to go to. I know which one I want her to go to, but, I’m not the one who will be going there, I’m not the one who needs to live with the results of that decision – so it should be hers to make!
Just to end briefly here, there is a LONG list of things that as adults we should know how to do for ourselves (basic cooking, do laundry, iron our clothes, wash dishes, keep our living space clean, drive, maintain a vehicle, open a bank account, pay bills, balance a check book, take public transportation, read a map, pack for a trip, make a doctor’s appointment, etc……) but one of the most important things that we need to make sure our kids are able to do by the time they turn 18 is to MAKE DECISIONS. To weigh the pro’s and con’s, to be able to ask questions, get more information, to consider the consequences, and then ultimately to make the decision that they think is best for themselves. How in the world are they going to do this when we have a bunch of parents who literally send the kids out into the world having made every single decision for them up until that point (and many, even after that point – what college they go to, where they live, what they have in their dorm, what major they pick, etc…..)??? I don’t know about you, but when my kids are adults, I want them to be able to function as adults!!!