Did you know if a butterfly doesn’t struggle to leave the cocoon, it can’t fly? It’s a fact that if you help a butterfly out of the cocoon, it emerges easily, but will still have a swollen body like a caterpillar. It may not struggle in leaving the cocoon, but it struggles the rest of its life with a big body and tiny wings that can’t fly. You see, as a butterfly struggles to leave the cocoon, it squeezes fluid from its fat little caterpillar body into its wings. When it emerges, it’s a tiny little thing with huge beautiful wings that are ready to fly. We may think we are being kind to help the butterfly out of its cocoon, but the easy way isn’t the best way for the butterfly to mature.
Struggle is part of our growth; our maturity comes from what we’ve been through and what we learned going through it. Let me tell you an incredible, but true story. The names have been changed to protect my friend’s privacy.
As a newlywed, Patsy struggled. Her single-mother, Suzie Homemaker, also known as Wonder Woman, worked forty hours a week in a law office, came home and baked, cleaned, sewed Patsy’s clothes, and did everything needed to create the perfect home. Patsy was a privileged only child, her mother made her bed for her every day, washed and ironed her clothes, cleaned her room, and picked up after her. When she did ask Patsy to help, Patsy didn’t understand what to do. So, her mother just did it for her. She never took the time to teach Patsy to do anything around the house. Patsy was free to play, watch television, spend time with friends, join every sport, and go to every party (all to which her mother taxied her). Patsy excelled in sports, school, piano and social media. She felt no motivation to attend college and didn’t imagine herself with a job or a career. When she married Charles, he treated her like the Princess she thought she was. He worked hard as a construction engineer, took on extra jobs so Patsy didn’t have to work outside the home. Then he came home to cook, clean house, and do laundry. Soon his job moved them to another state. When Charles began to complain he needed help, Patsy was clueless. She’d never even learned to buy groceries and cook.
Far away from her mother and old friends, she reached out to her new friends at the weekly Bible Study group she attended. “I don’t know what else to do,” Patsy cried. “Nothing I do is good enough.”
“What on earth are you talking about?” Lana asked.
“Chuck. He doesn’t seem happy with anything I do.” Patsy put her head in her hands and sobbed.
Lana shook her head. “Trouble in paradise already? You’ve only been married a few months?”
“Over a year,” Patsy corrected.
“How can we help?” Mary asked.
Patsy brightened. “Help? Will you help me?”
“Well, of course,” Mary assured her.
“Thank you, thank you.”
“What can we do for you?” Lana asked.
Her new friends knew she was spoiled but had no idea what they were offering to do.
“Chuck refuses to do anything at the house anymore. He said for me to start buying groceries and cooking. I’ve never cooked.”
“We can teach you,” Mary suggested.
Patsy made a face.
“I always have leftovers. Plenty for two,” Lana offered. “And my daughter loves to help with housework. She’s only six but can run the vacuum and dust.”
Patsy grinned. “I’d gladly pay her.”
“You should take Chuck’s clothes to the dry cleaner’s,” Lana added. “They will starch and iron them for you.”
Mary frowned and Lana leaned forward. “What’s wrong, Mary? Surely you don’t want to do Chuck’s laundry for her.”
“Of course not. The dry cleaner’s is a good idea for now, but how long will Chelsea want to help her with the housework? And when will you tire of cooking for her? What happens then?”
Lana made a face and leaned back in her chair. “By then she’ll catch on and be able to do it herself.”
“Will she?” Mary turned to Patsy. “Will you?”
Patsy sighed and slumped like a deflated balloon.
Mary repeated her offer. “We can teach you, but only if you are willing to learn—learn to help yourself.”
Patsy cried again. “I’m ashamed.”
“No need to be ashamed. You just weren’t taught. The shame would come if you never try to learn.”
Lana offered her a tissue. Patsy blew her nose and sniffed. “Okay. But where do I start? There’s so much to do.”
Mary stood. “Let’s start with lunch and a meal planning lesson. Then we can go shopping—grocery shopping.”
Lana stood and took Patsy’s hand, pulling her to her feet. “Sounds like fun. We can then have a cooking lesson, and Chuck will be pleased with your first home-cooked casserole.”
“While the casserole is in the oven,” Mary said, “I’ll show you how to multitask. Together, we can throw some towels in the wash and pick up around the house before he gets home.”
Patsy clapped her hands and hugged her new friends. The gift of help they offered was more than just helping for the day or the week. They were going to teach her to help herself.
Like the fisherman who taught his friend to fish instead of just giving him a fish, they gave Patsy a lasting gift.
Patsy’s learning didn’t stop with homemaking. Instead of turning to her mother the next year when her son was born, she turned to her two friends. Not so much for help, but to learn.
Are you teaching your children to become adults? Will they be ready when they are eighteen? We all want our children to have better than we had growing up. We don’t want them to struggle or have to work hard, but in today’s culture, there is a generation of children who are grown and yet not prepared for life as an adult. Recognizing a need in your adult child’s life and not knowing how to help them is a painful time for parents. Thankfully, unlike the butterfly, we can still grow wings.
No matter how old your children are, you are still their parent. You can still teach them. Stop doing for your children and start working with them. Stand alongside them, as they troubleshoot their problems. Be there for them. Be a good listener. Reassure them. But don’t bail them out. Allow them to struggle a bit to overcome obstacles and strengthen their wings. Remember it’s not sink or swim—don’t let your children drown! Offer them a lifeline, but don’t do everything, and don’t pay for everything. Teach them it’s okay to struggle, and as they struggle to find freedom from their troubles, they will fly.
Do you know someone who needs friends and mentors like Mary and Lana? Can you be that friend, that mentor. Maybe you are struggling to find your own wings. Let this blog community be your friend, and let’s mentor one another. Have questions? GO to my Banter. Have a story to share? Send me an Email.
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