I won’t lie. H-Boy is in training. Not for his run at the ’18 Olympics as the next Gary Hall Jr. (though I think we’ll start swim lessons this summer), but in hopes for maximum self-sufficiency in T-minus 3 months. About a month ago I realized that if I ever want to leave the house, I simply cannot tie 8 shoes. So, from that time on, I’ve been introducing the boy to both daily tasks and responsibilities that I think he can handle and velcro.
I had a few friends over one evening and they found it quite hilarious the amount of work the boy does; gets his own shoes, puts on/takes off his own clothes (except the shirt – pulling over the head is a hard one; we recently mastered socks as long as I give a good 10 minute head start from when we need to have them on). He puts his dishes (plastic!) in sink and, probably the most challenging: he is responsible for the current locale of his milk. I offer a few suggestions about where it might be, but he may have to go on a milk hunt to have a drink. He’s always been pretty good about putting it on the table (even a coaster – since he was young!), so it’s not too, too hard to find it out in the open. He also does a lot of carrying – groceries from the car (the light stuff! Come on, I’m not ruthless), clothes to the hamper, whathaveyou. I’m finding he also loves to do the dishes (well, he holds a sponge and a singular cup gets verrry clean while I do the rest).
He’s also a super-helper when it comes to clean up. Part of that might be due to his semi-quirky nature about needing things just right; another factor may be that I’m always having him do it. Sometimes he needs told a time or five, but he eventually gets the toys in the toy box. I wish I’d taken a picture of the giant bowling pins he lined up along the wall when I asked him to get them off my kitchen floor.
Tonight he was in charge of putting away the books he dumped off the shelf in search of the perfect read. I’ve mostly been putting them back away, but tonight Mickey remained unplayed until the books were on the shelf. Once he realized that cause-and-effect relationship, it took no less than 30 seconds to have things stacked. I was in awe that it really was that simple.
It’s a selfish ambition that we’ve worked on these skills; very little has to do with me wanting him “developmentally appropriate” (though it’s nice to have something to tell the ladies at the home visits). But I did some thinking after recent articles around education/learning that caused me to feel a bit validated.
When I’d posted about the homework
issue, I was appreciative of my kindergartener-teacher friend who shared her experiences. She mentioned that it helps to teach some responsibility, and another former-lower grade (now collegiate) teacher validated that students need that direction. After reading and hearing about kids of various ages that can’t put on their own pants, hang up their coats or a variety of other simple self-serving tasks, I’d say that society probably needs to be asking a bit more of them. And insert soapbox:… what if teachers didn’t have to be the ones teach responsibility? What if… gasp… parents did?
Now let me throw another stick in the mix.
I’ve read some works by Mark-O and his research into the lengthening of adolescence
(again – captivating for me! **disclaimer:I haven’t watched the video, only read his other pieces) and it’s [negative] affect on young adults. So I’m inclined to ask… what if it’s happening at all levels of childhood?
It’s fascinating to me that in so many ways we ask kids to grow up too soon – trade in play time for school hours, begin organized sports as soon as the jersey fits in exchange for backyard ball and pickup games, even deal with adultish issues like love and sexuality and relationships (some before jr. high!) – all the while we hold off on giving kids a sense of accomplishment for doing things like dressing or contributing to dinner. It’s as if we feel guilty for asking so much of our kids at a young age that we take the basics of life off their plate so they can enjoy youth soccer 4 nights a week.
There are lots and lots of kids I know who are quite self-sufficient and dressing themselves appropriately; I don’t mean to sound “well there’s this girl I know who’s daughter doesn’t even...” I’m simply reflecting on a few general trends I find fascinating. And perhaps I’m looking at 2 views of 2 separate extremes. I’m not sure the kids that can’t put on pants are the ones that are being asked to compose musical symphonies or hit the gym 4 nights a week. These could be 2 separate parenting deficiencies that display themselves at opposite ends of the spectrum.
Which, I suppose, just calls me to find a sense of balance. You know, one of my natural gifts. I suppose it’ll be a bit of a dance between letting kids be kids – putting play at the center of their day – and providing opportunities to grow and realize their full potential.