Monday, December 6, 2010

grow 'em up, move 'em out

my third baby is graduating from uconn this month - with honors no less. she was just offered her first "real" job and is making plans to move to boston. my son is buying his first house this month. my youngest was just accepted into the national honor society.

no one has ever mistaken me for a helicopter parent. my attitude toward parenting, in fact, has sometimes been described as casual to the point of laissez-faire. but whatever it is, im doing...i'm growing more and more certain i've done it right.

so for all the parents who are worried about your precious little darlings in a mean old world - this is how it's done.

1. The goal of every parent should be to put yourself out of a job. Repeat that after me, boys and girls.... YOUR GOAL IS TO PUT YOURSELF OUT OF A JOB. to this end, everything you do, every decision you make regarding your offspring should be made with the primary consideration - will this foster independence or will it foster dependence? Consider that by the time my son was four, he was capable of getting a simple breakfast together not only for himself but for his little sister. One Saturday morning, while lying in bed listening to the sweet sound of little feet running around the kitchen, my exhusband asked me if I didn't feel guilty lying in bed while the kids were fixing themselves breakfast. "Well," I said, after a moment's consideration. "I suppose I could feel guilty about it. Or, when i get up, i could congratulate Jamie on being so capable he can not only feed himsefl, he can feed his baby sister, too. So instead of feeling guilty, I'm going to lie here and feel proud." (Shut the husband right up.)

2. Keep the rules simple. I've only ever had two. 1 - You're not allowed to do anything to hurt yourself and 2 - you're not allowed to do anything that will hurt someone else or someone else's property. If you think about it, these rules cover all contingencies. One of the psychologists my ex tried to get to say I was unsuitable parent actually congratulated me on what he characterized as "the simple elegance" of these rules.

3. Set high standards. Provide all the help and support needed, but do not ever do the work. I never help with homework beyond a few edits. As I explained to all my children, I did my time in grade school, high school and college. They let me out. I didn't have to repeat any grades and I certainly didn't intend to repeat them four times. When it was time to do homework, either the kids did it themselves,or they didn't. If they didn't, I allowed the teacher to set the consequences.

4. Speaking of consequences, make them count. As my oldest daughter once said, the wrath of God would be preferable to what could happen if I had to mete out the punishment. When Katie was in kindergarten, she decided to walk home from school one day with a little friend. When she didn't get off the school bus as expected, her nanny pressed the panic button. When she and her little friend sauntered down the street, she was greeted by not just her nanny but also by me. Katie was grounded for two weeks. The other child's mother actually called me to talk me out of the punishment but I stuck to my guns and little Katie sat inside for two glorious weeks watching the other kids play. But I NEVER had to ground her again.

5. Don't pretend to be perfect. If you allow your children to see your limitations, they will be free to be less than perfect themselves. I don't have perfect children - I just have amazing children. They're no more perfect than I am. If you're not room mommy material, say so. If field trips and bake sales and cub scouts are your thing, go for it. But if they're not, don't feel obligated. It's far more important that your children understand that you are a person with needs, wishes, desires and limitations than that they think you're infallible or even interested in the stuff they are. Trust me, they'll figure out that you aren't on their own soon enough.

Don't get me wrong - it wasn't easy to raise four children, mostly on my own. It got easier of course, after I dumped mister-ex (and yes, its MUCH easier to raise kids when you're not saddled with a dysfunctional partner, but that's a topic for another blog.) Right now, I'm going to pour myself a shot of Middleton's and toast myself - and my wonderful, amazing kids.

and furthermore, the war will end. blessed be.


Shades of Scorpio said...

Annie I loooooved this post!!! And think I might just have to save it on my desktop.

Kim said...

Annie, this is one reason I look up to you and glean mommy advice. I was raised by rule number one - my parents tried and I beleive suceeded in putting themselves out of a job. They were very pround that by highschool my brother and I could run the house if needed. I try to do the same. I hope with my influence my kids are half as amazing as yours have turned out. The bio influence really boggles my mind as they run towards the abuser for her love but that is another post.

GlendaM said...

This is a great post!

As a mother of a beautiful, amazing daughter in her third year of university, I couldn't agree more. I spent her younger years teaching and guiding her to understand the world and the "rules" so that when she was a teenager and young adult she could make her own decisions, and hopefully wise ones.

As I see her now as a young adult, doing well in school, strong and smart, with great friends, and a person who has character - I know that I did right by her. I don't coddle her, she has a great deal of freedom, but she knows the rules and her limits. Too often children either aren't held responsible for their actions and are coddled. We all need to understand that all of our actions have consequences.

I agree we need to put ourselves out of work or at least into retirement as hopefully we will always be there to support and love.

Thanks for sharing.

Allison said...

Annie, So glad it dawned on me to check if you still write on your blog and not just on FaceBook. I think it used to link to FB but then it stopped, so I thought you stopped. Thank heavens you didn't stop and I was wrong. I LOVE this post!!! This would be a great article to submit to a parenting magazine.

Kathy said...

This is simply elegant. It says what I've been trying to say in so many complicated convoluted ways to so many complicated convoluted people. I'm going to print this out and give it to my son and daughter-in-law, and maybe pass out a couple more while I'm at it. OK?

Annie Kelleher said...

oh my, kathy, i'd be honored!!! print them out all you want!!! xxox!!!

Ellen said...

Congratulations! Glad to have found your blog. Have a blessed day. God bless!