As my daughter walks sleepily towards me in her purple fuzzy pajamas, I know what she is thinking.
On a typical Saturday morning, she is usually the last one out of bed. At this point, I already have eaten breakfast and am sitting at the kitchen table reading the paper with my first glass of tea. She is hoping that I will make her breakfast.
I have been stumbling my way through parenthood for almost 11 years. In my early years of parenting, I was the all-encompassing mother who wanted to be everything and do everything for her children. I quickly learned that I was going down the wrong path.
Today, one of my favorite sayings to my children is: "Try first and then ask for help."
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I have three children. I can't be everywhere. So when my oldest son tells me he can't find his school agenda, I ask him where he has looked. He responds with a pout and scuttles off to actually search for his agenda in the most likely spots. In the meantime, my youngest is yelling from upstairs that he needs help with his shirt. I tell him to bring his clothes downstairs.
I could do all these things for my children: make breakfast, hunt for school supplies, and dress them. But I have already taught them how to do these things for themselves.
The world is full of stressed-out parents who are trying to be and do everything for their children. They mean well, and their heart is in the right place. While heroic, it results in exhausted, irritable adults who are raising the next generation to think they need someone to do everything for them.
Children need to go through the struggles as they learn a new activity, lesson or task. You don't become better at baseball, reading or playing an instrument by having someone do it for you. We need to encourage our children to try doing things on their own first. Then if they still need assistance, we can provide added guidance.
I believe one of my main roles as a parent is teaching my children they can do things for themselves. In a way, I am teaching myself out of a job. I will always love my children and be here for them, but I want them to become self-sufficient adults who believe they are capable of taking care of themselves. They won't be able to do this if I am doing everything for them.
Ten minutes later, all three of my children are standing in front of me with smiles on their faces. My youngest has come downstairs to show me he has dressed himself. My oldest son is proudly holding his agenda, which he found exactly where he had left it — in his backpack. My daughter, now fully awake, is sliding into the seat next to me with a big bowl of cereal and trying to wrestle the comic pages from under my pile of newspaper.
I would have helped them all if needed — and some days I do. But today, I am still sitting at the kitchen table enjoying my cup of tea, satisfied in knowing my children tried first and did not need to ask for help.