My ten-year-old son has always been in the ‘lucky’ position of being an only child, and as such he’s been used to having my undivided attention. In fact, it’s only been in the last eighteen months that he’s even had to get used to the idea of me working away from my home desk at all. Pretty much for the whole of his life, he’s had me there, every step of the way, doing everything for him. Learning to take responsibility isn’t always something that’s been top of his agenda.
Whilst other children have had to learn to take turns for their mum’s attention and are probably more self-sufficient, I’ve made it too easy for my son to sit back and let me do things for him. I’ve made a rod for my own back in many ways. It’s a double-edged sword really, as I’ve felt very privileged to be there at his beck and call, whilst I’ve watched friends having to go straight back to work as soon as their maternity leave was over. Then they’ve had more children and have had to deal with the constant juggling act of dealing with the needs of children of different ages.
My son has taken it for granted that he doesn’t have to think for himself. Mum will make sure my uniform is ready, Mum will sort out my packed lunch, Mum will nag me until my homework is done. Mum will just wave her magic wand and everything will be done.
Well Mum is worn out and has too many plates spinning and this week I dropped a couple and it’s made me realise that we have a real problem. One that needs to be addressed, one that I’ve caused by waving my magic wand one too many times. This week my son has had to start learning to take responsibility. He’s had to learn it the hard way.
On Tuesday morning we were in a hurry, I’d forgotten to set my alarm clock, we were running late. It wasn’t a good start to the day.
Tuesday is the day my son has to hand in his homework. Normally I’d get his packed lunch out, his snack pot and water bottle as well as his reading diary, and leave them on the kitchen table along with his homework book. All ready for my son to pack in his bag for school. Well this week, I totally forgot to add his homework book to the ‘to school’ pile. And because I hadn’t left it out, my son didn’t even think to question the fact it wasn’t there. Even though he knew it was homework hand-in day.
The result? He got told he’d have to stay in during break time on Wednesday with the homework group. He wasn’t happy. He’d done the homework and it was my fault that his homework book wasn’t in the right pile. Uum, ok I accept that I forgot, but actually, my son is ten years of age, and perhaps he should actually be taking responsibility himself for the things. He wasn’t happy with my suggestions and was even less happy on Wednesday when he had to stay in at break time, even though he’d remembered to take his homework in, admittedly late.
But the whole episode made me realise that it’s been too easy for me to just do everything, and actually it’s not really doing either of us any good. I’m shattered pretty much all of the time these days, and my son is more than happy to sit back and relax while I run around like a headless chicken. So it’s time to change things, firstly for my sanity, and to free up some of my time, and secondly to make my son more self-reliant. Something he needs to have come to terms with before he starts secondary school.
Whilst I don’t see him ever doing any homework without constant nagging, he can start to get his bags together for school without me putting everything out for him. So I decided to repurpose the meal planning board that I have on my fridge, to push the idea home.
We sat down together and worked out what he needs to take to school each day of the week, and now the list is on the fridge, and it’s up to him to check things off each day and make sure he’s taking the right things on the right day.
Let’s see how it works as I start pushing him more to start learning to take responsibility for things himself. I also need to learn to stand back and let him get on with it. Wish us both luck!