When Helping Isn’t Helping

One of my family’s favorite torments stories about me is about my independence at an early age.  As the youngest of six, I became pretty self-sufficient quickly — although my parents would say it was a personality trait from birth.  One evening, at five years old, I apparently announced to my mother that I was going to bed and promptly went upstairs.  She asked if I needed her to tuck me in.  I simply said no, good-night, and off I went — my mom cried.

So it was hard for me to fathom that the kindergartner teachers at The Snake’s school needed to send home a SECOND notice regarding student responsibility and the drop-off.  The letter admonished parents that they will no longer be permitted in the classroom to administer reminders and kisses.  It instructed them on the importance of having their child unpack their homework from their backpack themselves, hang up their things on their own, etc.  It emphasized how critical this was for attaining competence for first grade.

Like “a valentine for every classmate”, I was surprised this needed to be pointed out to parents.  Coming from a large, working-class family we always needed to pull our own weight and take care of things for ourselves.  Adam and I expect no less from our kids.  We’ve already discussed the importance of a strong work ethic, chores, summer jobs, and such.

I don’t know that parents today intend to handicap their child or cheat them of opportunities to learn these lessons.  I wonder if as we become a more diasporas society whether the nurturing relationship with a child becomes amplified.  I know I’m disappointed there will be lessons my children miss out on because our extended family is distant.  But I know that I still need to push them forward into life.  I think it is harder for us to learn when to step back than it is for our children to step up.

It is very easy to fall into the trap of doing things for a preschooler or kindergartner.  I’ve done it.  Especially since The Snake struggles still with some fine motor tasks.  It is much easier, and quicker, to button up his pants for him, then wait and watch him fight to accomplish such things. 

Don’t be mistaken, I am very glad that The Snake attends a school where the parents are so involved and attentive to their children — it has been wonderful.  But it is interesting to watch some families’ approach to bringing their kindergartner to school.  Many find themselves running late, so they put the lunch away or hang up the book bag.  Or other kids are lucky enough to have both parents escort them to school.  (That’s great, although I have to admit that were Adam available to take The Snake to school, I would be home sleeping blogging cleaning the house.)  They all seem like such little things at the time.

I guess the thing we all need to realize is something smart I heard a kindergarten teacher say once, Five-year-olds can do a lot more than you think.

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2 Responses to When Helping Isn’t Helping

  1. momsprung says:

    Oh god, I think I would cry too, so I feel for your mom! But on the other hand, I can totally picture Sarah doing that in a few years.

    We definitely need to have coffee somehow…someway! Especially since we are kindred independent spirits! When I was just shy of 3, my mom was taking care of my newborn bro and I was hungry. She said, “We’re going to have hot dogs for lunch and we’ll go get them from the store when I’m done with (whatever she was doing).” So what did I do? Instead of patiently waiting, I took my tiny ass to the corner store and five-finger discounted myself a package of hotdogs!

    What can I say? When I’m hungry, I’m hungry!

    Anyway, I guess we’ll have to resort to virtual coffee…

    Oh…and big FAT word to your whole post. I can’t take all these coddled lil kids!

  2. stillsnowedin says:

    Oh, that is so true! They are capable of much more than we give them credit for. It’s funny, I’ve never once thought of escorting Jack into school to help him hang up his coat etc… Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that on the days I drop him off I have still have my pajama pants on and my hair hasn’t even been brushed yet, but I simply pull up to school, let him out, and off he goes!! I do wait to make sure he’s not abducted on his 10-step walk b/w the car and the door, but that’s about it 🙂 ! I love it. Plus, any good kindergarten teacher has those kids trained by week 3 to do exactly what they need to do when they arrive, probably even better than a parent could!

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