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Sunday, March 17, 2013

Helicopter Parents and Why My Daughter Looks Homeless Lately

Apparently, I am a bit of a lazy parent.  I do not feel obligated to make every minute of every day for my child picture perfect.  First, I think that sets unrealistic expectations.  Second, I think it ruins kids.

As a scout leader and a fairly active parent at my kids' school I'm starting to learn that some may choose to judge me.  My children-- and most recently my daughter more so-- from time to time, look like they may be homeless.  Their hair is a little messy.  The clothes a little wrinkly and not particularly matched.

To some, this makes me a horrible parent.

It's actually intentional.  You see, my children are 7 and 10.  I think it is reasonable for both of them to pick out their own clothing and brush their own hair.  Now with my daughter, I've backed off recently because it was getting REALLY bad and making me nuts, but again, I to some, am a crazy and a horrible parent.

I do not care that their clothes don't match.  They are learning.  When it's REALLY bad-- like the hair- and trust me, sometimes it is-- I make them change.  My son went through a phase where everything he wore was the same color.  No regard to shades or patterns.  It was hilarious.  He figured it out.  When he wore the orange outfit, I decided to have the conversation on what "match" meant.  And I couldn't take the black socks with shorts, either.  So I do have a line.  It's just further than most people's lines.

My daughter is a crazy by nature and she can pull off some crazy outfits.  As long as they aren't distracting to others (they can be), I let her wear it.

Because there is no way in hell they are going to be sleeping on my couch at 35.

No way.

Picking out your 10 year old's clothing will lead to couch sleeping.  I am confident of this.

As I parent, I feel my job is to let them try FIRST and then when they need me, to step in and offer assistance.  After all, if I do it first, then how do I ever figure out what they can and can't do?

My kids make their own beds, put their laundry in the hamper (mostly), put their dishes in the dishwasher and can make their own breakfasts.  My daughter made toast for the first time on Saturday.  You would have thought she made a souffle, she was so proud.  It was awesome.  My son made ramen noodles a few weeks ago.  He was so excited he offered to make dinner for every one.  It was delicious.  Best ramen I've ever eaten.

And it's not because I'm lazy.  It's because they need to know how to feed themselves.  Pouring a bowl of cereal and making toast, is not that hard.  If I am sick and can't do it for them, my children will not starve.  They aren't afraid to grab an apple and take a bite.  They don't need me to peel it and section it.

I have some friends who would never dream of allowing their child to touch a stove or toaster.  I have no idea why.  I want my kids to fly when I boot them out of the nest- not fall on their faces and cry for me.

We worked on their science projects this weekend. They came up with the ideas, their experiments and did their own boards.  Did I help?  Yes.  We focused on scientific method (my son's hypothesis was proven false-- this freaked him out.  I had to explain that that was, in fact, exactly what experiments were for-- to test- not just to back up what you already know).  I bought the lettering for their boards.  I showed my son some different things to do on Word that he didn't know.  My husband typed exactly what my daughter told him to type-- although I think she could have done it on her own (but I was doing drop off to a birthday party).  I helped her time her project (ice melting).  We helped them.  We did not DO the projects for them.

Two years ago my son did not get his science fair board completed-- he had done an experiment, tracked it for 6 weeks, but at the end, didn't finish it.

You know what happened?

He didn't turn it in (it's optional for everyone except 5th graders).  I didn't stay up until midnight doing it.  I didn't let him stay up until midnight.

And then to make matters worse because we are mean, we all went to the science fair and science night at the school that week.

He felt like crap.  He would have been the only 2nd grader with a project on display.

And the next year, his project was done.  On time.  No yelling.

Because when I say "Skip, I have a business trip on Monday morning and we cannot let this wait until Sunday night-- I have to get ready for the trip.  I will work with you any other time, just not Sunday night"- it's because I mean it.

When they were little and I would say "If you don't stop acting like that, we will leave" we left.  Period.  Even if I wanted to stay.

I don't negotiate with terrorists.

I don't do homework.  I don't blame the teacher.  My kids do what is expected.  I will be there ANY time they need help, but I will, under no circumstances EVER do their work for them.

EVER.

Because I don't need to.  Because my not helping isn't me being obstinate, it's because I have 100% faith that my kids are capable and competent and can do it on their own.

I am a safety net.  When they fall, I catch them.  But I let them jump.

I had a very nice helicopter mom comment on how smart my daughter was.  She asked me what my secret was-- I told her that I let her fail.  This mom is very nice-- her intentions are good- but she is always swooping in and fixing everything for her daughter.  If my daughter doesn't get her homework done, it doesn't get done.  She didn't get a homework award this trimester because of it.  I can guarantee it will be done every week during the last trimester.  She was not happy about not getting the award.

My kids aren't perfect.  I'm not a perfect mom.  My kids will probably tell their therapist some day "I can't believe my mom let me leave the house looking like that..." or they'll remember the battles and when I've said "I already completed first grade... now it's your turn."  Or maybe they'll be glad that I let them try.  And fail.

Failing is good.  It teaches you to get back up and try again.   Tenacity is a good trait.  Failing doesn't kill you.  I promise.  Being sad or upset-- it's better to learn to deal with it as a kid than to be overwhelmed by it as a teenager or adult.  I fail a lot.

Brush it off.  Try again.

I am so proud of my kids.  For being themselves. They are independent thinkers.  They are independent spirits.  They have their own opinions.  They push themselves-- it's not me pushing-- it's them.  They want the awards.  Because they know when they win them, THEY won them- not me.   They truly get the sense of accomplishment.

It's why I make them order for themselves at restaurants.  Or when they want to ask someone a question, I tell them to go ahead and ask-- I don't ask it for them.  Their opinion matters.  They have a voice.

So maybe they don't look like they stepped out of a magazine.  I don't care.  Or maybe their science projects are a little crooked or sloppy.  I don't care- they did it.  It's their work.  I already did my science projects.  It's their turn.

And we'll see how it turns out.  My guess is they will be fine.  They know they can do anything and they also know how to ask for help when they get stuck.  I'm sure when they are teenagers, I'll have to push a little more, but maybe not.

But the one thing that I absolutely, positively know is that they will not be sleeping on my couch when they are 35. 


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