Monday, September 23, 2013

Before she left for school this morning, my daughter asked me for a favor. "Mom, if you get a chance today, could you change my sheets?"

My initial response was my default parent/educator answer. I reminded her that that job was her responsibility. I offered a compromise, which she politely declined, and we went about our morning routine, subject dropped.

Did I mention that my daughter is fifteen?

There were no tears. No yelling, no screaming, no histrionics. She accepted my answer without argument and moved on.

Yes, I know how lucky I am.

When I first retired, one of the hardest things for me to manage was the balance between doing things for my family members out of love and requiring that they do those things for themselves -- out of the same motivation. I have always been determined to raise my daughter to be both independent and self-sufficient, and when both parents are working full-time, developing those skills is a matter of survival, so there is little room for negotiation.

But suddenly I was home a lot more, and the temptation to lapse into caretaker mode was enormous. How much trouble was it to put her breakfast dishes in the dishwasher? To break our longstanding rule and toss the clothes on the bedroom floor into the hamper when I was doing a load of laundry?

The fact is, it was too easy - and when something seems too easy, something else is usually amiss.

So I fought the temptation -- most days, anyway -- and required her to do it for herself, as I'd always expected her to. It was challenging, but it was worth it. Eventually, she came to understand that there was a difference between Mom being home more and Mom being at her beck and call.

Better yet, once that lesson sank in, she began to pitch in more in little ways. The combination of maturity and consistent expectations was a beautiful thing indeed.

And after she left this morning, I thought of all those things. The times she did what I asked the first time, without argument or complaint. The times she went one step further, doing something before she was asked. The times she showed me that she really is independent and self-sufficient.

And I realized it's been a long time since she asked me to do something that she knew was her job.

Sometimes, we have to teach our kids how to stand on their own two feet. And sometimes, we have to teach them kindness and compassion.

Her sheets are changed, and her blankets are in the washer as I type this. She didn't ask me to do that, but she's taught me just how nice it can be when someone goes one step further than you've asked them to.

And sometimes returning the favor is the right thing to do.

1 comment:

  1. I'm going through some of the same with my 17-year-old daughter, but in some ways the shoe's on the other foot. She had announced that she wanted to do her own laundry. It took remarkable self-discipline to let her do that, but I am trying to foster that independence. But this week she's got SO much on her plate that I risked getting my head bitten off by Miss Independence and grabbed her laundry. (Turns out she's so busy, she didn't even notice. Or care.)