Kay Wyma’s book Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement has become a bit of a guide in my efforts to teach my two girlies how to fend for themselves (we included an excerpt from the book’s intro in our first issue of D Moms). Especially genius is Kay’s list of “the top 12 things she wants her kids to know before flying the coop,” featuring such basic (and yet totally elusive to many kids) things like how to cook, make a bed, act mannerly, do laundry…
Kay shares her ongoing quest (struggles, lessons, and laments included) to raise self-sufficient kids on her blog The Moat. She’s also agreed to sharing her journey with a regular column here on D Moms Daily, and we couldn’t be happier to have her.
For Kay’s first installment, she engages in a little looking back and picks up some hindsight along the way. Enjoy!
A Carpool Line With a View
By Kay Wyma
I lean back from the driver’s seat and wave to my littlest guy getting out of the car for kindergarten.
Watching him, book bag balanced perfectly on his shoulder, walk to class by himself, I can’t help but notice the carpool group of kids running up behind him. Instantly, I’m catapulted to a few short years earlier. Memories of my oldest, now 15, flood my thoughts.
When my first child met the education circuit for the first time, I for sure lined up a carpool of kids to join the ride … of “cool” kids, no less. I wanted him to feel like he had friends. I didn’t want him to be left out or have to search for someone to talk to. His self-esteem was in play. And the players can be mean. Hurtful at times.
Not once did that boy walk into or out of school alone. In fact, when he hit middle school, I actually drove fifteen minutes out of the way to pick up one of his friends so he wouldn’t have to enter those big scary doors to face the ferocious middle-school crowd alone. Fifteen minutes might not sound like much, but add to the equation getting three other kids to different schools, and let’s just admit … I’m a coddling fool.
What is it with a mom’s incessant need to smooth the road so our kids can be happy? The age gap between kindergarten Jack, my little surprise tag-a-long, and the rest of our brood affords me the opportunity to (more often than I would like) realize how silly I can be. The countless carpools I’ve arranged so a kid will be included. The art camps, music lessons, and language classes – all so they will be “well-rounded” or “ahead” or … I don’t know. Something great, I’m sure.
And then I hear them saying to each other in the back of the car (as if I can’t hear), “Do you remember when we had she made us have ‘swim refresher’ lessons?!” followed by audible eye-rolls and a chorus of exaggerated “yeah”s.
Okay, so yes I did make my crew hit the pool with stroke instruction lessons during one Christmas vacation. I didn’t want them to feel awkward walking into the mid-season of swim-team that I was forcing them all to join the next semester. Why might you ask did they all have to join the swim team? Because our oldest isn’t an athlete. He needed to get P.E. credit for school. The school said he could do an off-campus regime. Swim team fit our schedule and met the requirement. So I signed him up. And since I didn’t want him to have to go it alone (lest it be too stressful – walking out to the pool by himself, kids you don’t know, lack of coordination, etc…), I forced his siblings to join the team for built in acceptance.
Pathetic. I know. And yet, I struggle to stop myself.
Until I watch Jack.
Last in line, he doesn’t get a finagley mother (She’s too busy smoothing everyone else’s road.) And, he’s just fine. Jack walks into school by himself. Finds his class by himself. Eats or doesn’t eat the lunch they give him … himself. Rarely does he have a play date. (His friends are in our house and share the same his last name). He was the only boy in his preschool class of eight kids last year. He has never watched, listened to or played with educational material. According to societal convention, he should be washed up at this point.
But, guess what? He has survived. Dare I say thrived. He’s arguably the most well-adjusted of our entire bunch… including me.
I know that some of the best parenting comes in the form of:
- letting your kids stand on their own two feet
- encouraging them to forge uncharted territory on their own
- walking behind and sometimes alongside rather than ahead
- letting them fall
It’s just nice to watch validity in action via a well-adjusted, independent five-year-old.