We can’t take a snapshot and keep them the same age forever. ~D~’s stride is getting longer and ~K~ is growing out of his brother’s old hand-me-downs. It is inevitable–we can’t hold on. And so the alternative is to slowly, and in calculated ways, help them to be more responsible and more independent. So that hopefully, by the time they are able to go out into the world on their own, they will be ready for it.
It is hard not to be protective and to just shield them from the bad in the world. But this doesn’t help them either. We want them to be able to think for themselves, to defend one another, to stand up for what they believe.
Recently we’ve picked 2 opportunities to help ~D~ (9) and ~K~ (7) become independent:
- Leave them home alone.
- Give them the responsibility of doing their own laundry.
These were my wife’s ideas, I can’t take credit for them. Mainly because I’m totally oblivious to this whole concept. She’s the one reading the parenting books and trying to do a better job.
As far as leaving them home alone, it is only for 10-15 minutes, long enough for my wife and I to walk around the block. We haven’t done it a lot–just enough to get them used to keeping on task (i.e. taking a bath and getting ready for bed) when no adult is around to spur them on. (As an aside, what a wonderful thing it is to have 10-15 minutes of uninterrupted adult conversation with my favorite person in the world!)
On the laundry thing, it isn’t as big a leap as you think. Since they were little ones, they’ve helped sort the clothes and put the laundry into the washer and take it out of the dryer. They know how to do it. The question, though, is: Are they responsible enough to do it on their own when they need to? Without prompting? A bit nerve wracking for a parent. But my wife assured me that it was a “safe” way for them to learn responsibility.
The first week, they did good to remember the initial step, but then their clothes stayed in the washer for a couple of days. I was concerned that it would get mildew on it, so my wife ended up drying, folding and putting their clothes away–and charging them for it.
We then made the rule that they have to get it done in one day. And so far, the last two weeks they have remembered.
As a parent, it’s hard letting them make mistakes. I want to follow behind them and pick up the things that they miss. I want to remind them do what they are supposed to do. I want to keep them young and close and innocent.
But that doesn’t teach them how to grow up. And so I let go…a little at a time.