Sunday, October 12, 2008

Two Kinds of Parents

Parenting can be fun but it can also be hard work. One of the things I noticed when my kids were younger was that some of the things parents were doing was not really all that necessary. I noticed there was a difference between doing things with your kids and doing things for your kids. And some of that begins with your attitude about them from the start. If you gaze into that crib and think that tiny thing needs protecting and caring for because it is your responsibility and that is as far into the future as you can see, you will approach things in certain ways. But if you look in there wistfully with the bittersweet knowledge that it is all temporary and that you have them in your lives for a few short years before they go out into the world as their own people, you will have an entirely different approach. If you think your kids need protecting you might do their school projects for them and do their laundry and make their lunches and make their phone calls for them and build their model cars for them. But if you recognize from the start that they are going to leave your care and enter the world as their own people, all the time with you is opportunity to prepare them for that. If you are merely caring for them, you might do the math homework that is hard, but then they never 'get' the concepts and you have to KEEP doing the math homework. And the science poster. And the English paper. But if you know they are going out there, you want them to have the math skills even if they only get a B on the homework while they learn. You want them to know how to lay in the supplies and research the information and organize it and plan the design to make their own science poster even if it takes 3 trips to the store, makes a mess of the kitchen table, and doesn't look quite as 'finished' as the one their friend's mom made. You want them to know how to make shopping decisions so you take them to the store and talk about it as you go even if it makes the shopping take longer and you want them to know how to feed themselves so you have them in the kitchen with you cooking and cleaning up and planning the next meal and you want them to be competent so you show them how to do laundry instead of doing it for them and you show them how to clean a toilet and repair a windowscreen and put washer fluid in the car and even if those things take longer to do as a team than if you just did it yourself, you will know when they leave that they can take care of themselves and figure out the unknowns from the processes you have involved them in.
Are you a doer-forer or an equipper? My kids know which I am.

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