A couple of weeks ago I wrote on Mum’s Word facebook page that my eldest, who started highschool yesterday, was up, dressed, ate breakfast, got lunch and was out the door at 7.10am to go and get her bus. And I wasn’t even awake. She had to wake me to tell me she was leaving. Proud moment or parenting fail?
Now all but one commenter, Laura, said that it was a proud moment. I had one person warn me about becoming too complacent in my parental duties.
Its one thing to be proud that you’ve taught her to be independent and capable and that she can do it when needed but quite another to expect her to be (independent) from now on. She undoubtedly wanted to prove to you that she can do it but that doesn’t mean she no longer needs looking after.
Laura went onto say that her parents often slept in while she and her sister got themselves ready for primary school and it didn’t send a good message.
Well my heart skipped a beat. Because you see, my kids have been getting themselves ready for school for ages. They get up, they know how to get their breakfast, pack their lunchboxes and get dressed. I usually lie in bed willing myself to get up but failing miserably. This wasn’t a planned strategy, but just kind of sort of fell into it I guess.
The 7 year old still needs help with his shoelaces so I generally roll to find a well-placed foot on the edge of my bed each morning.
I’m not a morning person and my kids are still at that age where they are. So I just organized things in a fashion that was a win/win situation for everyone. Or so I thought. I panicked after reading Laura’s comment.
I raced to my boys and asked them, “does it bother you that you get your own breakfast, lunchboxes and dress yourselves in the morning without my help?”
They looked at me after thinking for about 2 seconds, “no”.
“Are you sure?”
I find my daughter and ask her.
“Well, it’s hard in the morning. I know this is my first week of high school but it feels like I have to do more in the morning. I have to get up an hour earlier, I have to do my hair because I can’t leave it out, double check my bag and I have to make sure I leave on time or otherwise I miss my bus”.
“So you’d like some help?”
“Yeah, until I get used to everything”.
“What about last year? I ask. “When you were in Year 6, did it bother you to get yourself ready?”
“No, that was easy. I didn’t have to worry about leaving on time because that was your responsibility to get us to school…and I could leave my hair out”.
So I promised my daughter either Mr M or I would get up (not just lay in bed) in the morning just in case she needed us for anything.
When I was growing up my mother did the opposite to what I’ve been doing. My mother fried me an egg and made me a cup of tea every morning for breakfast. She made my lunch and sent me on my way. I walked to school on my own from about Year 4.
But when Year 7 started, it’s like she cut me off. No more breakfast, no more lunch and certainly no guidance on where the bus route went.
“Catch the 34 bus and when you get near your uncle’s house, you know where that is right? Well you get off and just follow the kids who are wearing the same uniform as you. Get on whatever bus they get on and you’ll get to school. You’ll work it out,” she says as she’s shooing me out the door.
My mother did give me $2 everyday for lunch though. Her advice, “Take lunch from home and save the $2 everyday or spend it at the canteen; the choice is yours”.
I learned quick smart how to use my wits, to think ahead and pretty much fix any problems I ran into.
Now I’m not saying my mother had the right idea or even the wrong idea, or Laura is right or wrong but they both certainly have a point. Kids not only need to be allowed to grow into independent beings but they need to know that their parents have their backs.
I am of the opinion that if children, tweens, and teens can, then they should. If the issue is that my children need to feel cared for, well I show that in various different ways. I may not be up at the crack of dawn like they are but they know that I am available to them.
They can, and often do, come and ask me if they can have some biscuits or the last cucumber in their lunch box. And through my sleepy haze I will answer. Fortunately they are bilingual; they understand English and my morning grunts.
Just after my daughter was born my mother told me that she was no longer needed; her job here was done. My mother saw that my siblings and I could cope with anything that life was going to throw at us; without needing her help.
And that’s what I want for my children too. I want them to one day not need me for anything.