Thursday, October 11, 2007


OK I haven't posted in a few days, just been so busy getting ready to go to Hawaii. We are all so excited, and thinking about last minute things like sun screen, and nose plugs for Phillip. But I have been working on a little piece about enabling. It just came to me when yet another person said I was enabling my children, like it was something so horrible. Anyway after thinking about it I decided to get my thoughts down on paper and here it is, in rough draft form:

I AM an Enabler

Pamela Genant

OK I heard it again a week or so ago, “you are enabling your kids”. But let me back up just a bit. It has happened in the past and has always been associated with me doing something for my children. For example, if I know we are going someplace that might be chilly, I will ask the boys if they want a coat. If they say no, and we have the room, I will go ahead and grab coats anyway, “just in case.” I will do it with snacks if I think we might get hungry or extra cloths if I think we might get wet etc. And a few times I have heard other parents comment that they believe I am enabling my children. Actually I am being nice; they usually DO NOT say they “believe” I am enabling my children, that is the nice thing I would like to hear. Usually they say “you ARE enabling your children.”

On a yahoo e mail list once I asked for explanation. Something I don’t usually do in person because we are usually doing something cool, and I don’t want to interrupt the moment to become involved in some philosophical discussion about parenting. But on a list I will. There were a few parents to enter the discussion but the feeling I got from those few parents is that they feel that if I do things “for my children” then my children will never do things for themselves. Hmmmm. Something to ponder.

It came up again the other day so I really started thinking about my personal philosophy on the subject of enabling. First of all I wanted a definition so I wouldn’t be making assumptions. So here we go:

Encarta online dictionary says:

en·a·ble [ in áyb'l, en áyb'l ] (past and past participle en·a·bled, present participle en·a·bling, 3rd person present singular en·a·bles)

transitive verb

provide somebody with means: to provide somebody with the resources, authority, or opportunity to do something
make something possible: to make something possible or feasible

OK so my thinking is that the parent’s who were commenting that I am enabling my children, like it was some sort of bad thing, that would lead to them being incapable of caring for themselves as they grow, didn’t know the real definition of the word enable. But they were correct I do enable my children, and I am so proud of that fact.

I provide them with resources, authority, and opportunity to do things. I let my boys have the authority over their own lives so that is out of my hands anyway. But YES, and I will yell it loudly, Y-E-S, I provide them with resources and opportunity to do “something”, lots of things. They are free children, free to follow their interests and passions, why would I NOT support that to the best of my ability. I also encourage them to be part of that process as well, so they help brainstorm about resources and opportunities. We work together as a team. They also enable ME! What an idea, how cool is that. They love to see me do “something”. If it is something I am interested in, they are right there to help me brainstorm about resources and opportunities for me to follow those interests and see where it takes me. Again, a TEAM, working together so that we are all joyfully participating in things that add spark to our lives, together or individually. We “enable” each other. What an empowering system we have created in our family.

Definition #2, to make something possible. I think that goes right along with definition #1. To provide someone with resources, authority or opportunity we are making it possible for them. We are not just sitting back and wondering what will happen, we are actively making it possible for each other to live our best lives. We are there to brainstorm and help each other with resources and opportunities to make it happen.

Will they lack the ability to care for themselves as they grow? I highly doubt it. If the past is any indication of the future, they will continue to grow and learn and be extremely capable of caring for themselves. We have just not see the “doubters” theories pan out in our family. Exactly the opposite is true. Not only do they learn to care for themselves as they grow in this loving, nurturing, caring environment, but they learn to care for and about others. As they grow they are just as likely to do some of those same things for me, bring along a coat or a snack. I see it every day.

Back to those few parents in my life who believe I am harming my children in some way by choosing to enable them. I know in their theory somewhere is the idea of natural consequences. That by bringing along a jacket for my son, he will not experience the natural consequence of being cold, and will not learn that he needs to bring a coat.

I figure I am a natural consequence in my children’s lives as well, a mother who loves them deeply, and wants them to be happy. So for me to leave home without those extra things, knowing we might need them, but wanting to teach my boys a “lesson”, would not be a natural consequence. Not even close to a natural consequence.

My boys see a loving mother who wants the best for them. They would feel the chill of the autumn air and then the warmth of a jacket as I snuggle them in tight. They would feel how happy it makes them that someone cared enough about them to pack a few things, even though they didn’t think they would need it. And maybe next time they will be packing something for me.

So enabling, YES, I take credit for that, I am an ENABLER! I am an enabler and a natural consequence.

We enable each other to feel joy
We enable each other to live our best lives
We enable each other to follow our interests
We enable each other to experience this world in our own time and in our own way.

How cool is that to be an enabler!!


Anonymous said...

It is very, very cool! You know I totally agree with you - and this is stirring some deep thoughts, so I might need to do some writing on my own. lol I *love* the thought of you being in their lives as part of a natural consequence. It's how we live, but I have never seen that written out before. Thanks so much for sharing this.

Deanne said...

Awesome post, Pam! Have a wonderful trip to Hawaii!

BTW, the place in Maine you asked me about in my picture is Bridgton. My parents have a house on Long Lake up there. It IS georgeous.

Also, let your son know we have really been enjoying your his "Feel Good" tea!

Deanne said...

I keep thinking about this, as it is an important issue to me too. I think if you don't bring a coat, or anything else for your child, when you consciously thought they might need it, you are definitely teaching them a lesson. But that lesson is more like, "I can't count on my mother to look out for me. She's not really about keeping me safe." And if you say, "I told you so," to your kids about it, it IS cruel punishment. They can still learn about the natural consequence of being cold, even if it's only for the few minutes before you give them the coat that you thoughtfully brought for them.
Anyway...I recently read a similar post by an unschooling dad about "natural consequences" here:
I think you might like it. :)

Rinnyboo said...

I love it, Pam!

I especially love this part:

I figure I am a natural consequence in my children’s lives as well, a mother who loves them deeply, and wants them to be happy.

I am proud to be an enabler!

I have been enjoying your blog. Have a good trip to Hawaii.


Stephanie said...

Great post Pam and I agree with you! I do the same thing with coats or food or toys or clothes or whatever it is we may need. My kids are usually glad I brought a coat *just in case*
Keep on enabling!