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Wake Up Call

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By Kimara - Posted on 26 January 2009

We had just gotten the last of our youngest son's belongings unloaded in his dorm room. Tim and I stood in the hall watching the orderly chaos as people went in and out, laden with what had finally been deemed necessities for campus survival. A couple of student guides, upper classmen that volunteered to help freshmen move in, were leaning against a wall within earshot of us. One collegian was recounting a story to the other.

Seems a mother of a new freshman had approached her with an unusual request. She wanted to make arrangements to have someone wake her son each morning.

"He has never been able to wake up on his own. I have to go into his room 2 or 3 times every morning before I can get him out of bed. If I can't find someone to get him up, he'll never make it to class." The stupefied guide informed her that there was no "wake up call" service on campus, and suggested she purchase a very loud alarm clock.

The woman had an incredulous look on her face. "But what happens if he doesn't get up?"

"Well", quipped the co-ed, "I guess he fails."

The woman called the young lady discourteous and rude. In a huff she set out to find someone that could help her. The 2 guides were aghast at the degree some parents coddled their children, and seriously questioned the somnolent offspring's ability to perform the most rudimentary hygienic rituals. "Without Mommy here to wipe his butt, I doubt he'll make it," they both agreed.

Now, being fair, I don't know the full story. Perhaps this young man suffered from a Rip Van Winkle disorder that interfered with the most basic of human skills...waking up. But, I'm willing to bet this probably wasn't the only life skill that eluded him, and sooner than later he would have to face a fundamental astronomical truth...the world did not revolve around him. In an earnest effort to take care of her child, this mother had unwittingly set her son up for failure.

Preparing our children to succeed in "the real world" must begin before they actually enter the real world. Here in lies the most basic of parental dichotomies...to truly help our children, sometimes we have to, well...not help.

As parents we are often frustrated by a 2 year old's desire to do something for themselves. Allowing a toddler to feed or dress themselves often creates more work for us, but it is an important stage to encourage and reward. A couple of weeks ago when my granddaughter pulled out 32 puzzles and mixed the pieces together to create a homogenized heap, she very confidently claimed she could restore order by herself. When we started to pick up puzzle pieces she quickly thwarted us with an outstretched hand and said, "No, Pixie do." Of course she did not have the dexterity or stamina to handle this task herself...but you have to admire her gumption! Teaching our children to take care of themselves as adults begins here and now. How we treat their efforts and reward their successes establishes a template for future accomplishments.

As children get older they may not be quite as enthusiastic about fending for themselves. Things like bathing, keeping their room clean and doing their homework can create confrontations of biblical proportions! Most teens are not elated by the prospect of doing dishes or laundry or vacuuming or getting a job, but if we are truly going to prepare our children to be successful as adults, it is imperative that first we teach and then expect a level of responsibility in keeping with their developmental abilities. A 2 year old can put away the puzzle she is playing with. A 6 year old can make his bed. A 10 year old can learn to load the dishwasher. A 14 year old can do a load of laundry. And an 18 year old definitely can use an alarm clock!

It behooves us as parents to begin teaching our children the "how tos" necessary to succeed as independent adults early. Although it may feel like meeting all our children's needs is synonymous with being a good parent, being a great parent involves learning to discern between what we should be doing for them, and what they should be doing for themselves!

When we are in such a hurry and we love to stay to where we are but we dont have much time then it's the hardest really. Relate to your experience. - Paramount Song

That's nothing. When I went to college my mom went and talked to the RA and told her I had a curfew she'd like her to help enforce. That was great for a laugh! But the truth was I was poorly prepared to be out on my own. I definitely do not want that for my children. I didn't know how to sew on a button or make coffee. There are still some things I feel like I need to learn to teach my children but I am teaching them to take on responsibilities for themselves. So the alarm clock isn't so much a hehe story to me as it is a sounds like mom story!!! I've learned tons from DH. Thank God! Have a great week all.

WOW. I would love to send this to my MIL. I expect my kids to do chores around the house and she's always telling me I expect too much. She brags that her children never did a load of laundry or frankly any household task. They were too busy being "kids". My DH didn't know how to make coffee. How is that possible? I agree whole heartedly with your take on the subject. Maybe because we homeschool we have more time to teach our children to become responsible, but I think all parents need to work at this. It really floors me when you hear how unprepared kids are today when they enter the real world.

BTW as I point out to my MIL all the time, my kids aren't slaves and they are very happy children, not prone to pouting or tempers. That's the side affect of teaching children responsibility.