I have been a mom for almost 14 years. I have been a stay-at-home mom for 12 of those 14 years. I will be the first to admit that I am not a pro at parenting, but there are streaks of genius along the way. Today was one of those days where I had an “AHA” moment.
Before I had kids, I was a teacher…briefly. In those few years that I taught, I learned that there are times you have to teach children by the “seat of your pants.” The same thing is true in my parenting style. I am not a planner of how to raise my children, I am more of a watcher. I wait for opportunities to instill the skills necessary for life.
The Club Meeting
On the way home from picking up my oldest from school, she informed me that she had an early club meeting the next morning. I immediately grimaced at the news for several reasons:
- My husband is out of town and cannot drive my oldest child to her meeting for me.
- My middle child also has to be his school for his earlier club meeting.
- My youngest does not have school on Fridays so I was looking forward to dropping off middle child and then crawling back into bed for 10 minutes until he wakes up.
Now my morning is going to look like this:
- Get up early to get middle child ready for school and bring him to his club meeting.
- Return home, get youngest out of bed to drive oldest to her club meeting.
- Deal with a cranky toddler for rest of day.
Sounds exciting, no?
The “AHA” parenting moment.
I have three baskets of unfolded towels in my bedroom. I told my two older children that in order to get a ride to school for their early morning club meeting, they have to fold one whole basket of towels. If they folded a basket of towels, it earned them a car ride to school.
Surprisingly, my middle boy said, “Okay.” I waited a minute until he realized what he agreed to. Then he groaned.
My oldest (who I believe will be a lawyer one day) tried to reason why it was my “obligation” as a mom to take her to school for her club meeting. I looked at her and said, “Yes, I also don’t have to allow you to be in any clubs, but seeing as I am a nice mom, I let you be a part of them. So you are now obligated to fold some towels and earn your ride to school. Or don’t fold them and miss the meeting.”
Yup! My kids have been cleaning the kitchen, making lunches, and doing laundry for years. I know I am a stay-at-home mom, but because I stay home doesn’t mean my kids get a free pass to not do anything around the house. My job as their mom is to teach them how to do basic tasks like cleaning up after dinner and doing their own laundry.
Do they do it perfectly? Um…no.
My dishes are put away by a 9 year old. So things are going to be a bit…shall we say…scattered. Not everything is in its proper place perfectly, but he is learning how to do the task. And I don’t go in after him and fix it to make it to my standard. The fact that he does the job without my help is very rewarding. To change what he has accomplished would crush his spirit.
As they grow, I teach them more in depth housekeeping skills like my standard for cleaning the kitchen. My almost 14 year old can clean the kitchen and make it look like I did it.
Does she do it always? Um…no.
I do have to remind her that cleaning the counters IS a part of the whole clean kitchen concept. And when she does her laundry, she will keep it in the dryer for days. Yes…days! Her clothes will be wrinkly and she will be stuck ironing them or wearing them as it. But it is a learning process that she has to go through and I have to let her go through it.
The Process of Letting Go
I read a long time ago that parenting is a journey of letting go. Not only is it a process of letting my children grow up and become independent, but it’s a process of letting go of my perfectionism. Before I had kids, my house was clean and organized. My kitchen spotless and the cabinets beautifully arranged. I never had piles of papers or laundry anywhere.
Now it is the complete opposite. I have piles of laundry, papers, and books everywhere. There are toys strewn about and the couch pillows are always on the floor. I have fingerprints on my windows and chocolate smudge marks on my pantry door. I have had to let go of my need for order and organization. I know someday everything will be in it’s proper place, but with that someday comes the reality that my kids will be grown and living a life of their own.
In the meantime, I try to live in the present where I can find teachable moments that will prepare them for their future. I just take a deep breath when I see chaos knowing that I am teaching them to become independent of me.