I took my older boys shopping yesterday. They are almost 14 and almost 12. It’s gotten a lot easier since the days of strollers and diaper bags and bathroom breaks and snack time and play areas at the mall. A lot easier.
But on the other hand, it’s gone by way too fast. So very fast.
As we proceeded through our shopping day, I took note of the way my boys are growing and maturing into young men.
They have really grown into some fun, and capable, humans. Not that we’re star parents, but instilling our kids with important life skills is at the heart of our parenting. We don’t over-parent, helicopter-parent, or rescue them from the natural consequences of their decisions, or their carelessness.
Translated: We don’t bring forgotten projects, lunches, snacks to school. We don’t hound on homework. They get themselves ready for school. They pack their own backpacks.
We’re definitely on the Free-Range side of the Helicopter style vs. Free-Range style of parenting.
From the time they were 5 years old, we’ve had them ordering their meals at restaurants. It’s very important to us that they know how to speak to adults, advocate for themselves and communicate their needs.
We live in a small town that has a busy highway running through it. They’ve been allowed to cross the highway since they were 8 years old with the only instruction being that if either my husband or I caught wind of them crossing against the light, they’d lose this privilege.
A few months ago, my husband shared with me an article about 12 basic life skills every kid should know by high school.
We’ve not mastered this list, but we’re well on the way. Last Thanksgiving, we took a family vacation to Sanibel Island. I did not pack a single bag other than my own. I gave them instructions and allowed them to choose what they wanted to bring. (Seriously, it’s a beach. Did they need anything more than swimming trunks?)
And they were fine. Not only that, they know they are capable of doing this task.
Not that the free-range always works out smoothly. My oldest has been waking himself up since he entered middle school. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, he goes to morning weights, so he’s usually out the door before I even wake up. He makes his breakfast, prepares his protein shake, and is ready when his ride shows up at 6:45 a.m. He’s a 7th grader.
However, last week I dropped my youngest (8 yo) off at his school then headed to the middle school to meet with my mentee for Teammates, when I realized that I had not seen my own middle schooler all morning. Whoops. He was still in bed sleeping when I ran home.
Needless to stay. We all learned a valuable lesson. Me: Count kids before you leave. Him: Set your alarm because your mom may not count kids before she leaves.
Nevertheless, while shopping yesterday, I watched as my sons easily maneuvered through everyday life skills:
-My oldest son had to track down a sales clerk to request the mate for the shoes he wanted to try on. I was across the store with the other child and did not assist at all.
-We ordered from the food court. My middle son needed a spoon. I instructed him to go back and ask for one. He waded across the packed food court, stepped to the register and requested his spoon during a busy lunch hour. He didn’t even think to ask me to do it for him.
I don’t know where your kids land on the 12 basic skills as noted above, but it’s never too late to let some of the parenting reigns go. You’re kids are capable and ready.
And do a headcount before you leave.