I suppose there’s a fine line between taking too much responsibility and not taking enough. Or maybe the point is to no longer take responsibility at all, if it’s not really mine for the taking. I’m not sure.
We have hanging baskets on the side porch of our house. They give us a bit of privacy, for when we’re sitting out there. They’re beautiful. And they’re mine to take care of. I buy them. I hang them. I deadhead the flowers and turn the baskets every Saturday. I water them. They’re mine.
But this last week we were away on vacation and I asked a neighborhood kid to watch and water them. When I came home, of the six baskets, one somehow had no more flowers (it’s thriving, but it has no more flowers) and another is largely dead.
Now, I by no means think the kid who was watering them did anything wrong. I’m pretty sure he did exactly what I asked him to do. I know his parents were watching and helping him. And four of the six baskets are fine. But one is full of dead flowers and stems.
What gets me is that I feel guilty about it. As if it’s my fault. As if I should have anticipated something other than I did, or known that the flowers needed something else, or told the kid to take care of them differently. As if I should somehow know why one plant has no more flowers and one basket has nearly no more plants. I find myself wondering if it would have happened if I was home, or if I would have somehow caught it and prevented it.
Then I think of my week away, which was a wonderful week away. We were at the beach. And, for the first time ever, my son got sunburned. Not everywhere. Not horribly. But sunburned nonetheless. I felt guilty. As if it was my fault. Although I told him to put on suntan lotion (and he fought me every time).
Then I noticed that my husband didn’t feel guilty about or responsible for my son’s sunburn. He didn’t really care about it. That’s what got me thinking.
How much responsibility-taking is a good thing, and how much is too much? Is guilt about the sunburn (and maybe the flowers) a “mom thing?” Is it really my fault that my son’s shoulders were burnt and my flowers are dead? And even if it is my responsibility to keep my son from burning and my flowers from dying, does feeling guilty help? How could feeling guilty help? It just gets in the way.
It doesn’t really matter, maybe not ever, whose fault something is. That’s what I say to my kids when they fight. It matters that I try to save my flowers and not kill any more. It matters that I try and help my son not get sunburned again (good news is, he’s listening to me better about lotion now). It matters that I try and fix what I can fix…if I want to.
But I don’t think it’s my fault that my flowers died. I don’t know why they died, but I don’t think anyone is particularly to blame. So I’m going to stop feeling guilty.
I’d love to hear your thoughts, and please share this post with others if it resonates with you!