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Independence Day

It has come to my attention that I haven’t been doing a good job of helping Simon become more independent. This is largely the result of his being an only child; there wasn’t anyone younger or needier to divert me away from him when he was two or three, so I’ve kept on doing certain things for him that parents of more than one child would have stopped doing long ago.

My first hint came when Simon returned from a sleepover with his friend Rhyse earlier this summer. Rhyse has two older sisters, and Simon adores the whole family. He also noticed some differences in their household, like the fact that the kids all get their own snacks instead of asking their mother to do this for them. When he told me about this, I blanched with the recognition that in some respects I’m babying Simon. I explained to him that when there are other kids on the house, moms and dads can’t do everything for you anymore. Kids with siblings are more independent at an earlier age than most onlies.

“Wow,” Simon replied. “Katie P—- must have been independent when she was, like, three.”

Katie P—- has four younger siblings, so he’s probably not far off!

But just because I can continue doing many things for Simon doesn’t mean I should. In fact, I’m pretty sure I should absolutely stop doing many things for Simon. Not because I mind doing things for him—far from it, I love it—but because I’m robbing him of the confidence and satisfaction that comes from being able to do for yourself.

In case I needed reminding, a second prod arrived yesterday. Simon was supposed to bring a book to school for afternoon independent reading. We decided the Ken Jennings Junior Genius Guide to Outer Space was a good choice, and I told Simon I’d put it in his back-pack. Then Tuesday morning rolled around and I realized I forgot to pack it after we were already at the bus stop. Simon was quite upset, and that afternoon I asked him how it went.

“What happened when you didn’t have a book in the afternoon, Simon?”

“I checked one out from class. And I told Mrs. R that you forgot to pack my book for me.”

“And what did she say?” [Note, I’m expecting to hear that she reassured him it was OK, she wasn’t mad, etc.]

“She told me that I should have remembered and put it in my backpack myself.”

Hm. I think Ms. R has a point, and I told Simon as much. Yesterday we packed up his bag together, with me asking what should be in it and Simon putting everything together and double-checking. Baby steps.

Yesterday I also pushed him in another way.  Simon was unclear about his homework for Tuesday night. He tore out a page of math to do at home, then worried he misheard Ms. R. By Wednesday morning he was in tears at the prospect that he did extra homework and would be clipped down for it. Because that’s what teachers do: they punish you for doing extra homework. Especially when they have already told your mom that you are a great boy  who is off to an awesome start in second grade.

Old Jessica would have emailed the teacher to give her a heads-up about the bundle of nerves coming her way. Current Jessica still wanted to do that, but resisted the urge. This was small enough that even though it seemed huge to Simon (and even though he was engaging in some catastrophic thinking about it), I decided he should handle it. It turns out the page wasn’t due. Now Simon needs to figure out what do with it between now and when it is due. He’s going to talk to Ms. Ray and figure that out for himself, too.

Not because he can, but because he should. I also think that gaining confidence and competence will go far in managing Simon’s occasional bursts of nerves.


2 Responses to “Independence Day”

  1. goldsteinrita says:

    Gee, I wonder where he got this tendency for catastrophic thinking??

  2. tlalbaugh says:

    Jessica, I can totally relate to this. This whole issue has been exacerbated by Kira’s height (she’s about 41 inches), which leaves her unable to reach refrigerator/pantry shelves and the counter without a chair or stool. This means I make all her snacks/food (and the whole “wiping” issue went a little longer than it probably should have because she still perches precariously on the toilet : ). But the other day, she was talking to a friend of the same age on the phone with the speakerphone on, and Kira asked what she was doing. “I’m making a sandwich!” said her friend happily (the youngest of six). It totally woke me up, and I realized that the problem is with me, not her. So, I’m reorganizing some shelves, and we’re doing some food prep training and getting a few chores assigned, and I am determined to approach this school year differently in terms of backpack, homework, etc. We’ll see how it goes!

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