Thursday, August 20, 2009

Independence & Self Sufficiency

I've been giving the kids a lot more freedom these days. Like going into public washrooms, for example. Alex is allowed to go into the men's room on his own. If we are some place overly crowded -or it has more than one exit- he comes with me into the women's room. Even Izzy has gone into public rest rooms alone. Well, I stand by the sinks in the big ones or stand outside the door in the case of single room stalls. No problems so far.

Alex has started going over to friends houses on his own. And playing outside without constant parental supervision. This means he has clearly marked zones he must stay in and he has to tell me if he is going into someone else's house or yard. He is very trust-worthy and has earned his independence. I've even waited in the car while he has run dvds into the library.

Food preparation is another area they are tackling on their own. Unless I make eggs, smoothies or pancakes/french toast, they make their own breakfasts. They pour their own milk for cereal and can find their own beverages. Fresh fruit is always at hand and most dry goods in the pantry are easy to manage. At 6 1/2, Alex can make toast, bagels and waffles. Even better, if they can't find a clean spoon or cup in the dishwasher, they will wash it themselves!

Izzy likes to empty the dishwasher. Each of them have a pet that they are in charge of feeding. Alex handles the cat and Macy is in charge of our 2 fish. Alex is good at taking clothes from the washer and putting them in the dryer. We've added lawn care and maintenance to their repertoire. Alex waters the front lawn and Izzy waters the vegetable plants. They've both walked down to the recycling bins to take out our cardboard.

When we are out in public, they have to speak for themselves. If they have a question about the whereabouts of a toy at Toys R Us or a book at Chapters, they ask someone who works there. At restaurants, they tell the server their order. In a food court, they can go up to the counter, stand in line, and ask for a take-out bag or more condiments. Alex has gone up to cashiers and paid for items on his own.

Alex would be in grade 1 this year if he went to school. When I was that age, I walked to school on my own or with friends. I was up and out of the house from dawn to dusk - rarely checking in with the folks, but telling them where I'd be ahead of time. We were allowed to paint a neighbours shed. Took odd jobs walking dogs or washing cars. It was a different world with much less hovering.

I have limits on what my nerves can handle but we are working our way towards competent and independent children. Really, the worst thing I've had to overcome is my fear of messes or incomplete jobs but they get better each successive time. They feel proud of their accomplishment and even prouder that we trust them. I am most excited about how willing they are to try new things. When I was a kid I loved to cook. My mom was a clean-freak who didn't like messes in her kitchen but I had a friend whose mom would give us free range in the kitchen. By 8 we were baking on our own. We learned through experimentation and having to experience failure. It was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

So, I don't hover. Heck, I even err on the side of laziness when it come to the kids these days. If they a sandwich, well, find the bread and put something between it. Needs clean undies? Grab your basket and help me put on the washer. It really does work. And the four of us couldn't be happier.

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