Kay Wyma on Summer Reading, Microfinance, and Letting Our Kids Do For Themselves

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Summer Reading. We’ve got lots of it going on around our house.The Once and Future KingThe OutsidersRedwall, … our list go on. I understand the purpose behind the assignment, really all reading assignments, but there’s something about the love/hate of Summer Reading that puts it in a special category.

And I wonder, would my kids summer read on their own if it wasn’t assigned? I hope that they might. But I’m pretty sure they wouldn’t. That’s why I have to remind them.

“I just want you to know that you have exactly 20 days to complete your reading.”

“I know.”

“Well, have you seen your book? … Did I say ‘book’, because I meant to say ‘books.’ As in plural…. Meaning more than one.”

“I said I know,” retorts the kid without looking up his latest app fav, Glow Spin Art.

Ignoring the rude, I continue, “You should look at the number of pages, add them together, then divide by the amount of days you have left in the summer. That way you can know exactly how many pages you need to read each day in order to finish before school starts.”

“Oh, my word,” the kid dramatically sighs in obvious agony. “You are so stressing me out. Don’t I get it done every summer? …  This is how I do it. I put it off until the last minute. Then read it all at the same time.”

Glad to know I’ve solidly pass on the procrastination gene. But, the kid does seem to get it done. Still, I’m not sure the book size has ever rivaled this summer’s requirement. And if anyone is stressed, it’s me.

The kid continues, “Please let this be the last time you say anything about it…. Puh-leeez.”

“Okay. Alright, I won’t say another word to you about it,” I commit, with a little good-luck-with-that smirk.

And I keep my commitment. Sort of. I just can’t stop myself from lobbing a few reminders under the guise of prompting a sibling… in the kid’s presence… so he can hear too.

“You told me you weren’t going to say anything else about it!”

He’s right.

And I know better. He should sink or swim on his own. I honestly believe that.

 

But, why is it SO hard to keep my hands to myself and not race in to save my kids. I’ll never forget one end of the summer a few years ago where I actually read aloud, to a procrastinating daughter, chapters in her book while she took a shower, got ready for bed and even got in bed. Yes, I did. Indian Captive. I’ll never forget it. I cared more about her being finished with her reading than she did. I thought I was loving her by reading for her. I think I was more worried about her (okay us) looking bad on the first day of school. Ugh.

The kids know now, after the little war on entitlement in our house, that I would never step in like that. Although, in my apparent need to Summer Reading nag, I’ve internally questioned whether I would stoop to do it again.

Then I read an article in Forbes and was reminded why I shouldn’t step in. The article had nothing to do with Summer Reading. “Your Help is Hurting”is about philanthropy. Specifically about micro-finance and its proven results. What Peter Greer, President of Hope International had to say rings true in our homes as well as in third world villages. Truth is crazy that way.

“… (A)nyone that’s been involved in philanthropy eventually comes to that point. When you try to help, you try to give things, you start to have the consequences. There’s an author Bob Lupton, who really nails it when he says that when he gave something the first time, there was gratitude; and when he gave something a second time to that same community, there was anticipation; the third time, there was expectation; the fourth time, there was entitlement; and the fifth time, there was dependency. That is what we’ve all experienced when we’ve wanted to do good. Something changes the more we just give hand-out after hand-out. Something that is designed to be a help actually causes harm.”

So much of what he says can apply to our families. Not in the grand scale of social programs, but in the intent and results that occur regardless of the arena. My kid that I read aloud to expected it. So much so, she was happy to be spoon fed rather than do it herself. Until I step out of the way. And they do it themselves. Because they own it.

It’s the essence of training. Teach. Walk along beside. Then get out of the way and cheer from the sidelines.
This next section of the Forbes article was wonderful, too. Especially if I take it a step further and apply it to my kids and their dreams:

“So we go in and say not, ‘What don’t you have,’ but, ‘What do you have? What are you dreams for your kids? What are your aspirations? What are your hopes? What is it that is in your hand to do?’ That changes everything. Microfinance then is the belief that everyone has ability, everyone has capacity, and it asks the question, ‘What is required to unlock that potential in that community to get them in productive employment?’”

It goes to the whole idea that if I’m stepping and doing for, then how will we ever know the potential that might be hidden. Especially if my kid’s achievements are really mine, not theirs.

So, to all the moms and dads internally dying as they watch their kids lounge into lazy summer bliss rather than get their work done: Here’s to keeping our hands to ourselves. One or two reminders, maybe even a possible strategy here or there, is enough.

Let the independence start with Summer Reading and keep going throughout the year. No more checked backpacks. Let them make their own lunch. And for that matter, let them keep up with their own grades. Here’s to the way it was when we were kids, quarterly report cards. Why do we need to know daily grades anyway? What’s up with that? Seriously.

These kids can do it. And in the process, maybe they might discover what they love and are uniquely gifted to do. It’s worth it. In every arena.

Thanks for walking the road with me.

 

Kay Wyma is the author of  Cleaning House: A Mom’s Twelve-Month Experiment to Rid Her Home of Youth Entitlement. She shares the hilarity and the tears that  come with raising adolescents & teens on her blog The Moat … because who wants to walk that road alone. 

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