7 posts categorized "Independence"

Working Mama Guilt: Asking too much of the kids?

October 29, 2012

Last week, I reached a tipping point where too much was too much.  Posted on my Facebook page:

Just when my mama guilt was at 200% for too much travel & work in the past two weeks, I shared with a colleague, who told me that two decades of all work, no home resulted in a broken marriage, estranged children, and much loneliness. Signal to recalibrate. Worse: when my daughter came home just now, she said, "Mom! I never see you anymore."

The reality is that I work.  Have to.  The reality is that the hours can be long and late.  Have to.  The reality is that I have to ask my kids to step up and help me.  Have to.  Aged 12 and almost-9, I have been asking them to ready themselves in the morning when their dad and I have to leave super early.  They feed themselves breakfast, get themselves dressed, and get themselves to school.  In the afternoons, sometimes my older child can be home alone from 3 to 6pm.  And, sometimes, I will leave instructions on how to heat up dinner, maybe a casserole that needs to be warmed for an hour.  And in the largest request for my children to be independent: I asked them to come home from school alone, to fix their after-school snacks, to get homework done, and to get themselves to their after-school lesson (2.3 miles away, via bike, via well-known safe route), then to get themselves back home again.

To be sure, these are pretty tall orders, espcially for our pre-teens.  Also to be sure, I would have come up with alternatives if I could think of any (ask a neighbor for a ride? Tried two who couldn't.  Get a cab? Cost - and - would it was just as (un-)safe? Reschedule? Couldn't finagle that either).  Whenever possible, we do plan for homework groups or calling on neighbors to try to fill in where we cannot.  As we all know, it takes a village.

As the product of two working parents, the oldest of three, I was left alone with my siblings a lot.  From a young age, I cooked, cleaned, helped shuttle to after-school activities, in addition to my own homework load and my own after-school activities.  I also helped care for a younger cousin (or two) often.  I am sensitive to the loneliness that can stem from being alone after-school for too long.  I am sensitive to asking for too much from our youngsters from such a young age.

Then again: Can it be all-together avoided?  Is it all-together bad to ask them to contribute in this way, taking ownership over self and activities, playing large part in meeting family needs (like preparing dinner)?

Summer is a time for ....

June 29, 2012

  • Staying up late.  Last night, it was 10+pm before the kids were settled in beds.  Maybe it was closer to 11pm. (for more, read "Summer Sleep, What time to bed?")
  • More media.  "Can we watch TV?", they begged, on a weeknight.  It would never be a request during the school year, but - now that we are in summer mode - not only is it a request, it is a granted request.
  • Playing outside until 8:30, 9pm.  Before and after dinner, the kids are found outside, rollerblading, scootering, Skuuting.  
  • Playing in the neighborhood, unsupervised.  In our current neighborhood, there is one street they are allowed to cross.  All other times, they need to stay on the sidewalk.
  • Exploring new boundaries of independence.  I just sent my two older kids on an excursion to get groceries, the store is about 0.4mi away.  They were successful, generally speaking.
  • Sleeping in.  We are lucky to have a schedule where my husband or I can work from home many days of the summer.  Those late morning days are delicious and allow for some slow getting up.
  • Trips to Grandma's and other relatives!  We have found a chaperon (relative traveling the same itinerary as our kids) to accompany our two eldest kids cross-country to deliver them to their grandparents.
  • The Summer Reading Program.  Kudos to all the libraries out there and the volunteers that keep the summer reading programs exiciting for the kids.  My kids do it every year and love it!  Although my middle schooler reads over an hour a day, she refuses to fill out the little game card.  She's too old for that.

Tell me more!  What are you & the kids enjoying more of, now that it's summer?

"Mom! Where is my X, Y, and/or Z?!"

July 26, 2011

How many times in a day do you hear: "where is my favorite sweatshirt?" or "where is my backpack?" or "where is my library card?"  As if we don't have enough to do keeping track of other things.  Most times, I simply state that I am not the keeper of their things, that they need to find it on their own. That is never the right answer, however.

Do you get this a lot?  What is the right answer?  I welcome your ideas on how to deflect the "where is my X, Y and/or Z?" questions.

Unaccompanied Minors in Transit

July 14, 2011

We have long taken transit throughout the city as a means to get to school, work, activities, and recreation.  Our TriMet Trekker group at school has further instilled confidence and familiarity of our transit system.  We have coordinated to have another school parent, who lives further out on our bus line, collect our kids as we deposit them onto the bus, unaccompanied, and that chaperoning parent has walked them the four blocks to their school.

Now, we have started to experiment with the kids taking the bus without an accompanying adult.  A few weeks ago, at the start of summer break, we sent three kids – ages 14 (a visiting relative, a non-Portlander), 10, and 7 – on the bus from our house to go to Powell’s Books.  This is a familiar bus line, as we work and go to school blocks from Powell’s.  They know where to get off (NW Davis) and where to walk so there would be crosswalks at lighted intersections.  They made it to Powell’s, bought a couple of books each with their saved allowance, then also had lunch at a restaurant, funded also by their allowance.

Yesterday, our eldest (the 10 year-old) and her friend (an 8 year-old) took the bus home from their summer camp.  It was one bus line (no transfers) and I met them at the stop where they de-boarded, as that stop is almost a mile from our house.   Once I was sure they were off the bus and across a busy intersection, I went ahead home on my bike and had them walk the rest of the way home alone.

I have some guidelines:

  • Go in groups; stay together.  Go to the bathroom together.  (In fact, try not to use the bathroom when you’re out!)
  • Sit in the front of the bus near the driver. 
  • Don’t jaywalk (even if mama might do so every now and then)

I repeat and repeat and repeat and repeat to them to be vigilant and cautious.  I have once mentioned to them the possibility that they could just be snatched up in a second and taken to a bad place.  There is a fine line between scaring the kids and letting them know that independence is very serious.  I catch myself when I start to rattle off scary stories.  The last thing are grown children who are so afraid to leave the house if I scare them so.

These are very, very big steps for us.  I recall the day when I first let the toddler out of my sight.  It was so scary; it was in the supermarket.  And, now, not only is she out of my sight, she is way out of my sight, possibly miles away.  I don’t deny that I have pangs of anxiety when I think about the what-ifs (there could be so, so many).  At times, I wonder if it is too early for this sort of independence.  Other times, I feel that it is the right time to learn this level of self-sufficiency.  We know families whose kids have started bussing on their own at this age (perhaps even slightly younger than 10) due to necessity - working parents unable to drop off/pick up at school made it a requirement for kids to get themselves to and fro on their own.  It's a bit of a luxury for us to be able to control when the kids start to transit solo, how far, and how frequently.

Are you there yet with your kids?  Have they gone out to take a walk to the store or park on their own?  Have they taken the bus or MAX or biked solo across miles to get to their desintation?  What are your guidelines for them as they venture out?

She's gone: her first sleepaway camp

August 24, 2010

It was really almost yesterday that she was going on her very first sleepover.  Four years later, I packed her up for her first sleepaway camp.  For the past two days, she - my almost-ten year-old - has been in a tizzy, making her list and checking it twice, to be sure she had everything on it.  We went through and labeled everything: the tent, the tarp, the camp chairs, the flip and the flop.  Everything.  This morning, I had to leave for work before any one else was awake, so I missed dropping her off at their meeting place.  I had to say my goodnight last night. 

I just tucked her little sister into bed, and she asked me to stay and read a while.  She didn't have company tonight in bed, no big sister to chatter with her while she drifted off to sleep.  To be sure, we miss her.  By tomorrow night, however, I might be sick with worry - wondering if she's warm enough, eating enough, having fun enough....  Even if I know in my heart of hearts that she is having the time of her life, there will be a good portion of me that will still wonder, and worry.

Before she left, I asked her to please use her best judgment, to let one of the counselors know if she ever feels unsafe or uncomfortable.  Most of all, I told her to have fun.  These are the things that memories are made of - cold summer nights at the coast, staying up with friends, roasting marshmallows, being parentless for the first time, more than just an overnight at a friend's house.  I miss her so much, but I am so happy for her, excited for her and her first sleepaway camp.  Thank goodness it's *only* two nights away.  I don't think I could stomach much more.

Kids & Cell Phones: yes? no? when? where? how?

August 20, 2010

As we explore more themes of independence, exploring the neighborhood without parents along and even considering taking TriMet on specific occassions, I have been wondering when is the right time for their own phones?  I am not the only one wondering.  An urbanMama recently emailed:

I'm curious about what other parents have to say about kids and cellphone use. My five-year-old announced this morning (on the bus, while watching a fellow commuter text merrily away) that she can't wait to get her own phone.  I'd really like to hear what parents of older kids have decided, and what their experiences have been. When did your kid get a phone? Why did you decide to get your kid a phone, or not? How did you restrict the use of the phone, if at all?

Playing in the neighborhood, unsupervised?

August 13, 2010

As I type, the kids are outside, playing.  I am working on the kitchen counter, and I have no visual on the kids. But, I can hear them shooting and calling to each other.  So, even if I don't have a visual on them, I feel ok about them playing out front, where I can still hear them.

Then, one runs in and says, "Mama, can we ride our bikes around the block?"  I say, "OK, just stay on the sidewalk, watch for the [one] driveway, and always stay together.  Go once around and come check in."  With my older kids now approaching 10 and 7, I think they are more than old enough to start exploring on their own.  When I was their age, I'd be out playing in the neighborhood all afternoon with no check-ins with my parents.

At a friend's house earlier in the summer, our kids were invited by the other kid (age 10) to go two blocks to the neighborhood park.  His dad gave him a timer, set it for 15 minutes, and asked him to come back when the timer went off.  I thought that was a novel idea.  I just might use that trick.

Do you have older children, starting to experiment with walking to the neighbor's house a block away, going to the park with a friend or sibling, riding bikes around the block?  What sort of parameters do you lay out for them?  How old were the kids when you started to let them venture out on their own?