Me: “Hi. My name is Lauren and I’m an Overparenter.”
Group of moms sitting on folding chairs in a semicircle: “Hi Lauren.”
Moderator: “Welcome. It’s very brave of you to admit this publicly. Know that you are not alone.”
Me: “Thanks. It’s good to be here. I feel lighter already.”
Moderator: “Why don’t you tell us a little bit about what brought you here.”
Me: “Well, like all of us, my main goal is for my kids to be happy. But I think I’m going about it the wrong way. I’m all up in their business all the time. When they’re upset, I can’t stand it and immediately want to fix it. Or when I see them doing things that I know will cause them unhappiness, I try to make them do it differently.
But I know they need to learn to navigate the minefields of childhood without my full and overbearing involvement. And often, when they’re upset about something they get over it much faster than I do.
I want to show them that it’s okay to go through painful times. If I’m always trying to make things better, what type of example am I setting?”
Audience murmurs in understanding.
Moderator: “Go on. You’re among friends.”
Me: “For example, a few weeks ago, I dropped my daughter off at a gymnastics birthday party. When I got there to pick her up, I was told she’d refused to participate. “I hate gymnastics,” she’d announced, and that was that.
She takes gymnastics once a week. I know she doesn’t hate it. So I have no idea why she was acting that way. And instead of just laughing it off, because it really isn’t a big deal, I got mad at her. And I harassed her about it.
Why? Because at the fundamental level, I’m worried that by acting that way, the other girls will think she’s weird and not be friends with her and then she’ll be alone and miserable. And she’ll end up living alone with 20 cats and wearing sensible shoes. And it’ll all be because of the way she acted at that party.
I get how insane that sounds. I mean, I’m not entirely deluded. And of course she’s still friends with everyone from that party.”
Woman with two cats in her lap: “Oh yeah, we get it!”
Me: “And I do the same thing with my son. He’s at a new school and I want him to make good friends there and I am just overbearing about it sometimes. Like, why don’t you be friends with so and so. Why don’t you do this or that. Why don’t you invite this kid or that kid over. I should just let him be. But I don’t. And if he’s having trouble with someone or doesn’t feel good about something, I get so upset.
I know I have to let them be who they are. I have to let go, to let them make mistakes and learn from them. But it’s hard.”
One lone clap.
Followed by another and another. Until everyone’s on their feet, all those parents who understand the need to control everything in their children’s lives, to scrub out the bad and leave everything shiny-happy.
We all high-five and shout things like, “We can do this! We can let our children feel pain! No pain no gain! Woohooo!” I raise my fists into the air, a gesture of strength and solidarity with this room of overparenters.
The next speaker gets up.
“Hi. My name is Molly. And I still feed my 8-year-old.”