Do The Right Thing

Do The Right Thing

Spike Lee was on my mind this morning. Remember the movie, Do The Right Thing? Well, two weeks ago, I questioned myself– did I do the right thing? This morning, I questioned myself again, am I doing the right thing?

I’ll get to my story soon, but first….

I’ve written blog posts on raising children with a backbone.

“For what it’s worth, this is what I find helpful in handling the delicate balance of nurturing and encouraging your children, and putting your foot down and being tough when necessary:

  1. There is a no-tolerance policy for rudeness. Ok, you want to stay home from ballet today, no problem. You want to eat in your tent in the basement instead of the kitchen table every now and then, no problem. You wanna stay up late one night to watch your favorite show, no problem. But we do not tolerate rudeness or disrespect. Period.
  2. No idle threats, moms. Ever found yourself saying: “Get dressed now or we’re staying home,” to which they reply, “Ok, I’m staying home.” AND THEN YOU GO ANYHOW. No way moms! Never give idle threats. You must follow through on any threat so your kids know you mean business. It’s ok to give a warning, but if they do not listen, there must be consequences for their actions. I am VERY good at this. Never given one idle threat yet.
  3. Hubby and I are sometimes guilty of this, but mom and dad must stand united. If you say no five times to a chocolate bar, and they run to daddy and he says yes, you got a big problem. Kids learn quickly how to play one parent vs. the other. So, sit down and discuss this with your significant other the rules of the house. Parents need to be united when it comes to core values, and discipline.”

I’ve also posed the “on the fence” question about Tough love: yay or nay?

“Do you shelter and protect, because these are our babies, and we want them to grow up with confidence and self esteem, in the bosom of those they love, and in turn perhaps risk doing them a disservice, or do you impose a sort of tough love, giving them the necessary tools to prepare them to thrive and cope in the “real world?”

I even sat on the fence on a Wordless Wednesday asking how hard is too hard to push, and when do we back off?

Do The Right Thing

“My 3 year old and daddy this weekend.

The ‘On The Fence’ Question: Do you push to finish the hour and fulfill your commitment, or do you call it a day?

When is it pushing too hard, and when should you push to not raise a quitter?”

Okay, now that you know the topic of raising a good kid is near and dear to my heart, I’ll get to the story.

At my 7 year old son’s camp, they have weekly overnights. They roast marshmallows, go on hay rides, watch movies, stay up ’till ungodly hours. In other words, have FUN! Last summer he asked me not to register him for any overnights (he is VERY attached to mommy). So I adhered.

But what happened? He heard about the great time his friends were having, and when I tried to register him after week-1 last summer, they were filled to capacity. He cried and cried… it wasn’t fair! He was DYING to go on those overnights.

So this year, I got smart. This summer, I registered him for 3/4 weekly overnights. Two weeks ago, week 1 of camp, we packed his bag for his first overnight. Sleeping bag, pillow, flashlight, raincoat, pj’s, the works. He was psyched!

Do The Right Thing

I kissed him as he walked onto the morning bus, and told him, “Buddy, I’ll see you tomorrow after camp.” He ran on, excited and proud.

BUT, 4:30PM we get the call, “Your son is crying very hard. He doesn’t want to sleep over and if he keeps crying, I think you should come and pick him up.”

My son gets on the phone. I tell him that he’s okay, that mommy is proud of him, that it’s one night, that it’s fun, and that he can do it.

We talk. And then I hang up the phone.

My first reaction… PANIC. I call my husband immediately. Of course I’ll pick him up. He’s only seven! He’s still little. Why would I make him suffer?

But then the panic wains, my husband and I talk it out, and we decide we will not pick him up. After all, he asked us for these overnights. Begged us for these overnights. And what would picking him up teach him about life? That if you don’t like something, it’s no problem to quit. Call mommy and daddy, and they’ll come running when life gets tough. That we don’t need to keep promises. That it’s okay to be a quitter.

Everything I am against.

Do The Right Thing

The camp then calls again at 6PM to tell us what our son said, AND I QUOTE WORD FOR WORD, “I’m 90 percent better now.” 🙂 Okay, I relax, shower, and settle in for the night.

But then again, 8:30PM… another call. “He’s crying again, maybe you should get him.”

And I quietly explain to them everything I just explained to you. That of course, if by 11PM he hasn’t settled down, we will pick him up. But that it’s important to us as his parents to teach him about sticking out a commitment and a promise. That integrity is an important tool he will take with him for life, and that at almost 8 years old, he is old enough to understand. They got it I think.

And that was that. We never heard from them again. He stayed.

It was the love and support from my Twitter peeps that kept me strong that entire night, as I questioned myself afterward. I got messages like, “It’s character building,” or “You’re doing the right thing for him.”

Well, the next morning I called the camp and they said he was wonderful, and eating breakfast and about to watch the rest of his movie. A huge sigh of relief. I felt we did the right thing.

Last week, week 2, I cancelled the overnight. He asked for the break, and after doing so well at the first overnight, I granted him his wish.  Well guess what? Last week, after missing that sleep out #2, he asked to go back again tonight, for the last sleep over.  I was proud. Making him stick out that night allowed him most importantly to prove to himself that he could do it.

So as I kissed him goodbye this morning as he ran onto the bus, overnight bag packed, big smile on his face, I reminded him that he can do it. I reminded him to enjoy himself, and that I was so proud that he CHOSE to return on his own. I stood and waved as the bus drove away, tears in my eyes. Tears because I know how hard it was, and still is for him to stay tonight. Tears because he’s getting bigger and growing right before my eyes. And tears of pride for the wonderful young man he is becoming.

But then again, still wondering, did I do the right thing?

Do The Right Thing

I’d love your advice.



  1. You did do the right thing. Although I’m not a parent myself, I raised my youngest sister closely with my mother (she was ill a lot) and I understand the dilemma you’ve been through. We encouraged her to stick out the tough times and as a result of this she is considerably more advanced and mature for her age. She trusts herself more and when she doesn’t want to stay behind to attend her dance class once in a while, we allow it. Your son will thank you for making him stick it out in the long run just as I thank my parents for making me stick at certain things. Making children stick at smaller things will enable them to persevere in all of life including; relationships, friendships and work.

  2. You 100 percent did the right thing. I know it wasn’t the easiest thing to do but your twitter followers are right. It is character building. Good job mom.

  3. You did the right thing. Sometimes, making good parenting choices requires bravery. He dug deep and found strength he didn’t know he had. This experience will boost his self-esteem. Good for you!

  4. I think that without a shodow of a doubt you did the right thing. The long term lesson that heas learned from you NOT going is a very valuable lesson. It relates to committment, follow through and it is character building.
    My 8 yr old daughter is away at sleepaway camp for the second year. She was sick at camp on Friday and because she was sick she was homesick. The camp called on Sunday (because of shabbat) and I sent her a special email telling her how much I loved her, how great camp will be and that I’ll see her on visiting day. In reality, all I wanted to do was to hug her and make her feel better. But, she is learning a similar lesson of independance and self-reliance. It may be young to start teaching them these things but I beleive that the earlier we start, the better off we are.

  5. I think you did the right thing. You had exit plans all through that night if you needed them, and yet he made it through. If you had gone to him at 6 or 8pm, he might never have known he could get through it and it might have been years before he’d try it again. I’m happy to hear how supportive the camp staff was with you. I love that you allowed him the break when he asked and then he decided to go back on his own terms.

    I think tough love at 7 depends on the circumstance, but in this one, I think you and your husband handled it great.

    Now tell me how to get my 3yo to get through a dance class she loves. It’s an hour, but after 20 minutes she’s ready to leave, or at least sit in my lap and watch the rest. Maybe I just bail from the session and wait til next year? Although losing out on the paid fees eats at me.

  6. You did great and I’m here to tell you the uncomfortable news that you will be put in this position MANY times over until they are adults! Arrrgghhh!

    Good for you and your hubby for being there for eachother – your tweeters are right, it is character building and a great way for your son to feel good about himself – that with your support he was able to overcome his fears. Morning came while he was sleeping and look at that, a sleepover was born. Good job!

  7. Great job Erica. I agree with Christina. You gave him that break and now look he went back all on his own. You gave him the biggest gift by doing this.

  8. Guys, I am overwhelmed by your positive words. Wow.

    A mom: Believe me, I’m still questioning your question. 😉

    Thanks readers! As always, you keep me on track.

  9. Oh man, that’s such a tough one. I have SO been there, many times, with my sons. It’s such a challenge, walking that thin line between giving them a little push into something (that you know they’ll love!), and respecting their wishes to be let off the hook. I think the only thing you can do is take it situation-by-situation, and kid-by-kid. Hardened rules on the way to handle things EVERY TIME are not a good idea, in my opinion. Parenting is flexibility! I think listening to your intuition is crucial, too. In the aftermath, it’s hard to regret listening to your gut.

    I think you did the right thing. By the time you got to “Plan Q” (as my husband and I like to say)…it was clear you and your son had weathered through, for the best possible outcome. Good work, mama.

  10. I totally agree with your choice and had to make that choice myself. Never doubt what you feel is right for your child. There is always a lesson to be learned for both parent and child and we second guess our decisions and that’s what good parents do. We want our kids to do the right thing but we dont want to hurt them in the process. You’re doing a great job.

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