Learning to Do Things Themselves

Four more days and then they’ll all be home again, I thought last night. Although the holidays always turn out quite easy to do with all the children at home, I always feel stress beforehand, a pressure to make the best of it now, that I can still leave the house without arranging anything, finish thoughts without ‘mom, mom, mom’ in between and make music without sighing as a backing choir.

I think I have to plan what I’m going to do in the coming days. Make all assignments for the Writers Academy, promote my book, because it would be nice if I can cover the costs, and write blogs. It’s time to write and it has to be today, or tomorrow. After that, at least one child will be home and all of them already have Friday off. Maybe there’s a museum I can go to with them, but I’m afraid we’ll take another month of Netflix and/or Disney+ and start cooking and baking as occupational therapy.

But not yet. Not today. Today I can write, finish thoughts without interruption, let creativity flow. We have now agreed that the small room in the attic will be mine again in the morning and my Love’s in the afternoon, so I decide to settle in quickly. Then the phone rings. My youngest forgot something necessary for the test. I think children should learn to manage on their own, but this kid is only eleven, still learning and has a lot of trouble handling stress. I decide to adjust and help him by taking it to school.

As I carry my things upstairs, I walk through the chaos of his room to his desk, not finding what he needs there. I WhatsApp him that. A lively discussion follows. After half an hour of searching I decide that I will not come to school, that he can come home and look for himself or that he has to make the test without this document. Then another child texts that he needs to go to the doctor, for which he should have called himself, but has forgotten to do so. Since the whole family benefits if this problem is solved quickly, I join the telephone queue of the GP.

Ever since my eldest started secondary school, I learned that your job as a parent doesn’t necessarily get easier as your children get older. Before, you could determine what you were going to do with whom and where, but now they all want to determine that themselves and it happens more than once that I have to be in several places at the same time. Which I obviously don’t do, but still. It’s not funnny having to say “no” all the time.

I recently read that as parents you often show your love by doing things for your child, but that as they get older, that should change into: teaching your children to do it themselves. The latter takes much more time than the former.

While I’m sitting in the small study an hour later than I wanted to start writing, I find out that the school holidays will start earlier. So I need to finish my thoughts quickly and maybe go for a walk first. On my own. Because now it is still possible and besides that, it helps to switch gears again. This is an opportunity Ineke, don’t break your plans (well, a little bit). It’s an opportunity to teach them to do things themselves again.

First published in Dutch on December 14, 2020