Why I Do Things For My Kids That They Can Do For Themselves

by Karen Johnson
Originally Published: 
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We’ve all seen the signs or read the viral news stories that lecture parents to stop bringing in their kids’ gym clothes or homework if they forgot them at home. They need to learn! Kids are too coddled these days! Life is hard! No one will save them when they are adults!

And I agree with that. To a point.

Because the thing is, my kids are just that—kids. I am still their mom. And my number one job is to take care of them. So while yes, that means teaching them responsibility, it also means helping them when they need it. It also means ensuring they feel loved and supported and that I have their back. It means picking them up when they fall, and helping them make their wrongs right again.

So sometimes it may look like I baby my kids. And that’s okay with me.

For example, in our busy household of five, we are out of the house more weeknights than we are home. My kids aren’t old enough to stay home alone yet, so if one of them has a game or practice and my husband has to work late or their activities overlap, they all come along. That often means homework and sandwiches in the car and a rushed bedtime.

And that also means that I might make their school lunches even though, yes, they can do it themselves. Or I’ll help pack their backpacks, ensuring the homework is checked and in their folders. And that the snow boots are by the front door, and hats and gloves are tucked into sleeves. I will help them take a quick bath, get into pjs, and tuck them in so they get enough rest. And I’ll take care of everything else while they sleep.

I’m also the kind of mom who will bail my kid out sometimes. If my son has a major project due that he’s worked on for weeks and and leaves a piece at home, you’re damn right I’ll bring it in to school. He’s 10 years old, for God’s sake. I drove my husband’s computer to him at his office just last week because he forgot it and he’s 37. People forget things. It’s called being human.

I also let my kids sleep in my bed if they’re scared or need comfort. And if they are sick, you’ll probably find me on the floor in their room all night, holding the puke bucket or listening to them breathe.

I get it that not every parent can rush a forgotten poster to their kid’s school—you may be at work or have small kids at home. And not every parent sleeps next to their kids if they’re fighting a fever or nasty cough, and that’s fine too. But if I can, I do. That doesn’t make me a better or worse parent that you. It just makes me a mom doing what they think is best for their kid. And doing what feels right in her their heart. As all moms do.

Looking back, I see a lot of myself in my own mother. She babied me quite a bit, always doing things for me that I probably was capable of doing myself, yet she somehow raised a daughter who grew into a fully functioning adult. A daughter who flew to Europe by herself to study abroad in college, who has lived all over the country, and is a successful mother of three fab kids. So when I think back on her making my lunches and making sure I got up in time for school, and cooking me hot soup when I was sick, I am grateful. And I realize that she didn’t prevent me from growing up and learning hard truths about life. Instead, she supported me and made sure I knew that whatever I did in life, wherever I went, that I could always turn to her if I needed anything. She was just being my mom.

So yeah, tonight, one of my kids has hockey practice. They’ll all have have math and reading homework and need a bath or shower. Between all that and dinner, we’ll be lucky if we get them to bed in a heap of exhaustion before 9. So chances are, I’ll be the one filling water bottles and making ham sandwiches after bedtime or early tomorrow morning so they can sleep in a bit. I might also do a quick load of laundry to ensure everyone has clean underwear and socks, and if breakfast is rushed in the morning, I’ll run a homework sheet out to the bus stop that one of them left on the counter. And no, I’m not stunting their development or maturity by doing so. Because tomorrow night we have no activities and they’ll all be home, helping with the laundry, and dinner, and packing up their own lunches and homework folders.

It’s about balance and finding a middle ground between letting our kids learn life’s lessons, but also making sure they know that I’m always there. And if that means I get to baby them a little, so be it.

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