Gum in Your Hair

A blog for parents under the big sky.

EDITOR’S VOICE

:: EDITORIAL BY LEIGH RIPLEY ::

My oldest is a full-blown teenager.

She’s driving. She’s managing her own school, athletic and social affairs. She’s doing it – growing up and learning to lead her own life. Well, sort of.

Recently her BioMed teacher was discussing the life skills she assumed most students had already embraced, “You all know how to do your own laundry, fold your clothes, make your breakfast, schedule doctor’s appointments...” But she paused when she saw my child shaking her head “no.”

She asked, “So you don’t know how to do your laundry?” My daughter answered, “I can wash my leggings but by mom does the rest.”

Teacher: “You don’t fold your laundry?”

My child: “My mom does it.”

Teacher: “You don’t make your own breakfast?” My child: “Mom does it.”

Teacher: “Have you ever scheduled a doctor’s appointment for yourself?”

My child: “Nope. My mom does it.”

The teacher then approached my child and quietly asked, “You do make your own bed, right?”

My child: “My mom does that too.”

Her teacher then informed my child that she had better plan on attending college close to home because she has very few of the necessary life skills needed to live on her own.

While my child thought this was funny, I couldn’t help but think what a disservice I was doing her. Do I do ALL the things for her? Absolutely. In part because I love my kids and I would do anything for them, including but not limited to laundry, cooking, cleaning, scheduling, laying down in oncoming traffic ... But also because I am a neat freak, highly organized and a tad bit controlling. So I’ve learned when it comes to my kids that if I want it done right, it’s easiest to just do it myself.

Now, can my oldest child do her own laundry? Absolutely. She’s become very adept at wasting water and energy laundering her one pair of Lululemon leggings weekly, sometimes more. Can she prepare her own breakfast? I taught her how to pour her own, unassisted bowl of cereal and milk when she was 5 (mostly because I didn’t want to get up at 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning to do it for her)... and I recently caught her making an even-better-than-I-make cheese quesadilla for her friend. She can do these things, she just would rather I do it.

This all brings me back to my childhood, when my father would yell to my mother from the den, “Hey Peggy! Make me a sandwich.” To which she would reply, “You can make your own sandwich.” To which he answered, “But it tastes so much better when you do it.”

The truth at the heart of that short dialogue is astounding. A wee bit lazy – but true nonetheless.

I can do ALL the things for her... for another 28 months. And then she’ll go off on her own. She’s made it clear she does not want to go to college in Montana. She wants to head off to a big city and experience the world outside of my neat, organized, controlling wings.

She gets excellent grades and I never have to nag her to study or do homework. She’s at the top of her game in sports. She never loses so much as a sock. Her backpack looks like she has OCD. She knows when and where she needs to be better than I do. She’s always bathed and immaculately groomed and, if left on her own for 48 hours, I’m sure she would survive. (Note: I would never leave her alone in my home for 48 hours...she’s a teenager and I can promise she would most definitely NOT be alone.)

So, to my child’s BioMed teacher: She most certainly will be fine attending college thousands of miles away from me. I may not be OK – but, like my child, I will find my way. We will learn to do without each other. We will pick up the slack where the other is not present to “do for.” I may spoil my children when it comes to taking care of them (I don’t have the finances to spoil them otherwise...if I did, I’d probably do that too). But I do this because I love them, and I can.

Now, if you’ll excuse me I’m going to wrap this up and go make her bed. Yup, you’re damn right I am.