adult in pjs

This was an email chat I had with my daughter this week. 

Hi Mom,

I know I’m trying to be good with my money and avoid asking you for help but I really really need it this time. I don’t get paid until Friday and I have no gas or food. I am up in the north office today (50 minutes from home) and I’m not sure I have enough gas to get me home.

If not it’s ok. I can ask someone else. Let me know what you can do. Thanks mom.


Your trying-so-hard-to-be-independent-daughter

Dear trying so hard to be independent daughter,

I will help you because I love you and I know you are trying hard.
I will put some money in your account. I am glad you caught it before it became overdrawn
and you’d have to pay an extra $35.


Your trying-so-hard-to-not-be-enabling-and-teach-her-daughter-how-to-be-independent mother


I’ve always struggled with the concept of tough love. I grew up tough loved. It was one of my Mom’s favorite words when things didn’t work out the way I wanted them to. “Tough,” she said in her “get over it” tone of voice. I must say, it worked for me. I’m pretty resilient. But as a parent, I was never able to speak that word. I searched inside my soul to say NO when my kids were little, but it never came out of my mouth. When I was the mother of four teenage children (2 mine/2 steps), I knew I needed to say it often. I thought about it. I tried to say it, but still it never came.  When family members were in rehab, I heard the word often. “They need tough love,” I was told. So I did as I was told (because the more experts said I had to), but I emotionally struggled with it.

I saw those other moms, the tough ones, who put their foot down and said “no”  to chocolate cake. Nope, not me. “NO” is hard for me. It goes against everything I believe in. Maybe I harmed my kids, but maybe I let them know that I believe in them. And as long as they are trying their best, and they believe in themselves, I will give them as a boost up the ladder towards success.

When I was getting certified for ADHD coaching,  I was surprised to learn that one of the traits of ADHD is people-pleasing and compassion. People with ADHD feel intensely; other people’s pain as well as their own. I didn’t need an ADHD diagnosis to inform me that I’m naturally a peace-loving, compassionate, giver. It’s who I am. It’s deep in my soul. I can’t be anybody else. Not even my Mom. But compassion can be harmful when you’re a people-pleaser who doesn’t know how to say “no.”

So, how did I teach my children to learn right from wrong, find their own strengths, to try their hardest, and to work everyday to be their best self, without saying NO as often as I “should” have? I believe in them. I see the good in them, even when they don’t see it in themselves, and… I pray a lot.

Tell me what you think… enabling or compassion?