Like you, I adore my kids. My husband and I want nothing but the very best for our children like most parents do, but recently something changed around here.
For most of my children’s’ lives, I have worked from home as a web and graphic designer, because I was a daycare kid until I was 12 (after school and summertime only, obviously, but my husband still finds it hilarious that I went that long), and a latch key kid after that. My parents worked outside of the home-they had to-so there wasn’t a whole lot of one on one time with them as I grew up. Because of my experiences, I decided early on that I would be at home, no matter what, as my kids grew up.
Being at home for most of their lives, I found myself doing everything for them. I’m not sure if it was to validate my being in the home or if it was just because I do adore them so much, but it’s likely a combination of the two. Anyhow, I never minded doing their hair, packing their lunches, finding what they lost, reminding them to finish their assignments, waking them up, putting them to bed, washing their shoes off, picking up their rooms-the list can literally go on forever. I think I may have even liked some of it.
Years go by, kids get older, and change must happen. This became clear in our home about a month ago.
I have suffered from insomnia my entire life. I am not a morning person. At all. And, until recently, I didn’t drink coffee but once or twice a year, and I don’t consume anything else with caffeine. My point is, some mornings I am a zombie, and I’m sure you are, too. One particular morning last month, I decided to lay back down for 10 minutes…10 little baby minutes. This is what started it all.
When I woke up 10 minutes later than usual, my kids also woke up 10 minutes later than usual. We still had plenty of time to get ready, cook & eat breakfast, and get to their schools on time. For some reason, my 14-year-old was especially out of joint with my decision to wake her up 10 minutes later-which is really out of character for her. I can honestly say that I was blessed with even-tempered, respectful, and kind children (thank God!), but she was not happy this day and did a poor job of hiding it. Her stress level was extremely high so I asked what going on, and that’s when she said, “I don’t want to be late-I wish you would have gotten us up at the regular time.”
Honestly, I was insulted that she thought I would make her late to school so that I could snooze a little longer and perturbed at her irritation with the whole thing and she made it to school in plenty of time like I knew she would.
It was one of those moments that stay with you long after it’s over. I was irritated with how the whole morning went, and while I know many parents deal with real drama in the mornings, the fact that ours are usually so smooth and pleasant made this morning pick at me all day. When I talked to my husband about it, he had the answer. “Tell them they have to wake themselves up from now on, and if they oversleep their bedtimes will be moved back thirty minutes.”
It made sense. They both have alarm clocks, tablets, smartphones and all three have the capability to wake them up. Why WAS I still doing this for them?
When they came home that night, I broke it to them. I was no longer going to be responsible for getting them up in the morning. It was something that they needed to do for themselves. In just a couple of years, they will be college students and I won’t be there to make sure they get out of bed.
No buts. If these kids can make long drawn out arguments for why they should be able to watch this movie or that TV show, why they should be allowed to spend their allowance on a rated M game, why they should be able to go to the mall, and hang out with their friends or go to the movies with their friends and no adults, why in the hell couldn’t they wake themselves up in the morning and be responsible for getting ready in time to get to school, without me doing it for them?
That was CRAZY. When I was their age, I woke myself up, I made my own breakfast, got completely ready, and left the house walking to my bus stop before anyone else in my house even woke up-and then I walked 3/4 mile in the dark to get to my bus stop-with out a cell phone or anything else! I started to see that by doing this for them, I was making them weaker and dependent on me.
I want to know that my kids are strong, and if anything were to ever happen to me, I want them to be at least self-sufficient enough that they can get up and go to school.
Well, here we are one month later. So far, so good. I do still get up and cook their breakfast, and help them with their hair, but now when I wake up they are usually dressed or at least wide awake with their morning hygiene taken care of. And it’s nice. Not just because I can sleep a few extra minutes, but because with this one tiny change they have become responsible for their own mornings, and they have not overslept even one time. My kids don’t have to be coaxed out of bed anymore, they don’t have to have me come to their rooms 3 different times to make sure that they are awake, they don’t have to hear me say that “this is the last time I’m going to say get up” anymore. The weirdest part? I think they actually like being responsible for themselves, now.