Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Do It Yourself

“Mom, can you make my sandwich?”

The question is a valid one. She is a flurry of activity behind me, collecting lunch items to throw into an insulated bag that has seen better days. I am sitting at the table, reading the news, cruising Facebook, sipping coffee. I have all morning – all day, if I choose – to do this. She has exactly twelve minutes before she leaves to catch the bus, and fourteen minutes of routine to go.

“No,” I reply. I resist the temptation to look at my daughter and into the pleading. It’s hard. This request has crept into her morning routine more often lately; as temperatures rise, my kids slumber later, their alarms buzzing once, twice, then going silent. They have fallen prey to the unsatisfactory – yet all too tempting – brevity of snooze button sleeping.

I won’t make her sandwich. She needs to figure out how to manage her time better, to get out of bed at an hour that allows her plenty of time to fix her lunch and get herself ready for school on her own. She doesn’t really need me; she’s using me as a crutch, a prop. Supermom could swoop in at any time, but I don’t, for one reason only.

She can do it herself.

There are so many things about parenting that are unexpected: the love for a helpless newborn that transcends understanding and sanity; that homework for them often means homework for you; that worries do fade – a fever isn’t reason for panic, a solo walk around the block doesn’t inspire fear of injury and abduction.

And: children become capable of doing for themselves all the things you have done for them for years.

Cleaning a room. Planning a hangout with friends. Emailing a teacher. Making a sandwich.

I clearly remember my mother telling me to make a hair appointment. I was fourteen or fifteen, not yet driving myself around. My mom was out of the room at the moment I noticed my split ends and decided I needed a trim. “MOMMMM!” I yelled through the house to get her attention. My mother, annoyed, yelled back at me to look up the number and make my own appointment. I was shocked. Surely that was an adult’s work, to make arrangements with strangers over the phone. She’s my mom – isn’t she the one who’s supposed to do this stuff for me?

In the end, through shaky voice and with sweaty palms, I made the appointment. I was capable, after all.

Sometimes the hardest thing is not doing what comes easily. Resisting the urge to do. Helping a person develop their own skills and realizing talents and abilities sometimes means that we take a step back and wait for them to do it.

I can make a sandwich with my eyes closed, can easily pick up the shoes and straighten the beds and pick the dirty clothes up off the floor to add to the laundry pile. I have developed those abilities. But it’s important for my kids to develop them, too.

Sometimes I forget that my purpose is to teach them to do things for themselves and not that I am only here to serve them. So I pick up the shoes and throw the clothes in the wash and straighten the comforter. And I make the sandwich.

And other times I step over the dirty clothes, stay firm in my seat, and tell them no. Do it yourself.

And they do.