Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Can Do Attitude

Do we do too much for our kids? Isn't is easier, faster and neater to do it ourselves? Especially when we are trying to rush out the door, upstairs for bedtime, etc? I am extremely guilty of this. I am a self-confessed control-freak with a raging case of OCD. I like order. I detest chaos. I get into a routine of putting on their clothes, shoes, socks, coats, etc. And the kids are perfectly content to be waited on hand and foot. I got wise one day when I picked up Sara, age 3, from preschool early. The teacher told her to put on her coat and boots. She raced over to the coat room and got dressed with a speed that most fireman would envy. I just stared. The teacher laughed and explained that most kids "forget" these life skills when they are with their parents. Two years ago, I realized that most girls her age could shower themselves, including washing and conditioning their hair. I'm not running a day spa here. We had a couple rinse and repeats but she got the hang of it and seemed to enjoy her independence. I resigned myself to mopping up the bathroom floor after Shamu's water show. It was easier than showering her myself. Then I realized I could toss some towels on the floor and let her play Cinderella and clean up her own waterworks. Two jobs off my list and on hers now. A couple years ago, a friend and her son visited, I watched in amazement as her 7 year old cleared the whole table without being asked. Another job Sara should be doing. She had been setting the table for a while but it never occurred to me to trust my fragile dishes to a 7 year old who twirls everywhere. She liked being given more adult jobs. As she turns 9 next month, we keep giving her bigger jobs and responsibilities. I credit her school for encouraging this. Her school does an amazing job of teaching responsibility, accountability and time management. I no longer tell her what to do to get ready to go somewhere. I ask her what she thinks she needs to bring. Her backpack, homework and lunch are her responsibility. As her responsibility and accountability improve, we add jobs that she enjoys. She is getting to help more with cooking. She has even asked to help put her little brother to bed. He loves it and she enjoys spending time with him without fighting. Christian proved to be a little more stubborn. He whined and moaned about putting on his own socks and shoes. He whined about putting on his coat. I remained steadfast. I learned to start the leaving process early. I let Sara sit in the car listening to the radio while he waged a losing battle of the wills. I am older and way more stubborn, my barefoot little friend. Over the last few months, I started testing the waters with Christian. I started asking him to do more little jobs. He sets and clears the table. He gets his breakfast and lunch things ready for me to assemble. He clears the table. He cleans up the toy room with no direction from me. I remind him that he is a big kid now and big kids have big jobs. Luckily, he has not asked about his big paycheck. He can mostly shower himself. He can pick out his clothes, dress himself and brush his teeth. He moves slower than molasses while doing these Herculean feats but I like to think I am laying the foundation so my future daughter-in-law does not return him for a full refund because he is defective. I do not want to be waiting on my children hand and foot when they should be waiting on me hand and foot in my old age.

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