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.


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18 comments:

  1. Amen. And what they don't realize is it would be so much easier for us to make the sandwich than to say no.
    Though I must admit to occasional weakened resolve, especially if it means a missed bus and a mom behind the wheel in her pajamas.

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    1. Yes! It is much harder for me to resist taking care of everything than doing it all. And I would be lying if I said I never gave in. :)

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  2. So true and you totally nailed it. It IS hard not to give in, to do for them - not for any reason but we can't help but want to take care of them. But. Eventually they have to do it on their own and if we don't prepare them for it with the safety net of us and home in place, they'll never be able to function as productive adults. Am I totally hardline about it? No. Some things you can't expect at this age. But you can sure plant the seeds. Love this post - good to see you!

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    1. Thank you Lisa! I like that you said that it's hard to be hardlined about it, because after all, we are conditioned to jump at our baby's cries, no matter how old they are.

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  3. Wonderful! You are such a good mom.

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  4. You're such a good mom! *sips coffee*

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  5. LOVE THIS SO MUCH!!! YES YES YES!!!!

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    1. I LOVE YOUR ENTHUSIASM THANK YOUUUUUUU!!!! :)

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  6. I admire this in you and will admit now it's an area where I'm failing.
    I think perhaps it stems from the ten years I was still teaching when my kids were little. In the mornings, I was rushed myself trying to get them out the door to daycare/preschool/elementary school. Our days did not begin peacefully (I now know this is not unusual in families were a parent stays at home or works from home) and I felt terrible. Barking orders, losing patience. We were never late, though. THAT was not an option. I'm rigid like that and take the responsibility seriously. So when I finally took my leave of absence (which turned into a permanent resignation) I was determined to make up for the decade of mornings where my babies didn't get my FULL attention. Almost 8 years later I haven't gotten over it, the need to do things for them, earn my title as mom.

    I know it's wrong. My son leaves for college in the fall.
    I'm going to have to start reading this post every single morning until then.

    P.S. I stopped reading this post to finish making my daughter's sandwich.

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    1. I fully expect that when my kids are home from college, I will be falling over myself trying to make them a sandwich, to make up for all the times I refused to help them. Because I will miss them so much. To, as you so eloquently put it, (re-)earn my title as mom.

      Parenting is a straight up gut punch.

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  7. Oh I can relate to this. My daughter is always running behind and hungry. I refuse to cave into her cute grin of pleas. She has starved more than once at school because she didn't allow time to pack a snack. Silly kids!

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    1. "Starved" is always a relative term, isn't it? My kids will claim starvation if we don't have enough frozen pizzas in the house.

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  8. It's a tough balance, though, isn't it? I find myself trying to model kindness, then taking a hard line all of a sudden when it comes to individual responsibility. I hope that in the process, they're learning a bit about that divide between the two, too.

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    1. Boundaries are hard! It's always been much easier for me to just follow the rules. I'm really being challenged in this area as a parent.

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