How many mornings in homes around the world are spent fighting with kids about them getting dressed and ready? We wish, so often, that they would just get dressed without our help. But ‘ready’ means…we want them to wear matching cothes, and look neat and tidy, and have matching socks and suitable shoes….hair brushed to our standards, teeth clean andshiny…No wonder they give up before they even start! With all those rules it’s just easier to wait until Mom or Dad comes and does it for them!
But what if we didn’t? What if we left them – without the rules – to really get dressed on their own? What’s the worst thing that could happen?
One day this past week, Daniel – my ‘baby’ – got himself up and dressed before I came in to wake him. He then proudly popped out his room to surprise me! Wearing a scary combination of clothes that were obviously the first ones his little hands landed on. I had a choice then…. do I correct him and burst his ever so proud bubble…or do I match that excited enthusiasm and congratulate him on his ‘proud of himself’ moment?
Of course, I picked the latter option. That day. But sometimes, being the control freak that I am, it is really hard for me to do the ‘right thing’ when every part of me wants to teach him about colours that do and do NOT go together…and that stripes and dots are not really a good combination. And that stripes and different colour stripes are also not that great together. And that your socks should match, really…. sometimes I’d even be happy if the shoes were from the same pair! 🙂 But is a start, right? He is dressing himself and he is positive about it, and so I will simply ecourage him and coach him until he learns the finer subtleties of dressing.
So for now I should be rejoicing in the willingness he is showing around being independent. I should be celebrating how proud he is with himself. And I should enjoy the odd moments when he does still ask me to dress him because his days of needing me for those things are really numbered.
A few days after that we went to buy school uniforms for him. Yes, school uniforms! And once again I was struck by how, from now on, he won’t be wearing quirky outfits… He will be conforming in a boring, but very socially acceptable uniform. It kind of made me sad. They really do grow up so quickly, and before you know it they are no longer babies. Doing everything for themselves. So don’t wish their lives away too soon.
My oldest son went on a camp. He had a list of what he needed, and so I gave him the list with additional instructions. You know, an outfit for every day and 2 warm tracksuits in case he got cold. My words were “put all your stuff on the bed and I will come help you pack it in your suitcase.”
Not too much later I heard him leave his room. I asked if he was ready for me to help him pack it and his response was “don’t worry mommy, I packed!”. Aaaargh!!!! Now I mentioned earlier I am a control freak, so my gut reaction was “holy cow! What do you mean you packed!???!!! I said put it on the bed! I need to pack it so I can be sure you have everything! You can’t possibly have packed without me checking! What if you forgot undies!? Or your toothbrush!? Or sunscreen? Or a spare track suit?!” but thankfully I had another calm moment to collect myself and I simply said… With LOADS OF RESTRAINT… “ok. Would you like me to check it for you or are you comfortable you have everything?” to which he replied… Much to my dismay… “nah I’m good.” and that was that.
I sat on the edge of my bed and had a serious chat to myself because control freak mom wanted to rush out there,sneak his bag away and do a proper check…. But RCB mom was very proud and happy that her 11yr old MALE child was confident and capable enough to do it all himself. And so, after much back and forth negotiating, I Let him go without checking.
And he survived. AND had a blast.
Yes he came back sun-burnt, but not because he forgot his sunscreen. 🙂
And so, another apron string is severed and we march strongly forward into independence. And I am pleased… THIS TIME… With the way I handled myself and the choices I made. Sometimes I could kick myself for being over controlling. I know that I want strong, responsible, independent kids… And yet sometimes I curb that because of MY issues. I am the one who can’t just let them do it their way sometimes because of my set ideas on how things should be… who can’t sit back and allow them to fail and learn through their own mistakes… Wh wants things perfect for them. Isn’t that what we do? We want them to be happy and for things to go smoothly for them, but actually by doing things for them, we weaken them. This can be the difference between a dependent child (who at 25 still brings their laundry home for you to do) and an independent child who is confidently responsible for him/herself.