As my three children and I approach the front door of our elementary school on the first full day of school, I find myself trailing behind.
My two older kids rush ahead, waving apathetically as they catch up with their friends and disappear through the door. My youngest is skipping only a few feet ahead of me, hopping over the lines on the sidewalk while calling out to me to hurry up.
Wearing the strap of my Kindergartener’s sparkly pink backpack on my shoulder, I’m carrying a pair of flowery rubber boots and a matching rain jacket in one hand and three manila envelopes stuffed with filled-out forms firmly grasped in the other. I hold out my pinky and encourage my five-year-old to hold on while we cross the street.
At that moment, I realize that she is completely empty-handed, while I’m fumbling with fistfuls of her stuff. I’ve done it again, just as I had done when my two older kids had first started school. I was carrying all of her stuff, when she was more than capable of doing it herself.
I promptly place the backpack on her back, hand her the boots and jacket, and explain to her that big girls carry their own things - and she doesn’t seem to mind at all.
As parents it can be so easy to do everything for our kids. From picking out their clothes and dressing them, to packing their lunches and carrying their bags to school, we help them along, forgetting that sometimes they can help themselves just fine. At five years old, most kids can place their boots at the base of their cubby. They can hang their jacket on the hook, and they can change into their inside shoes all by themselves - if you let them.
For a long time I did everything for my kids, carrying their load (both literally and figuratively), because they were my babies, I wanted to help make things as easy as possible for them, and I thought it was easier for me too. But the burden of doing it all can quickly burn you out, and keep them blind to the independence that they need to experience in order to grow into capable kids.
I’m trying to make an effort to encourage my youngest to take little steps towards complete independence, starting with carrying her backpack, unloading her lunch bag when she gets home from school, and choosing what she’d like to wear each day.
When one of my older kids forgets a jacket on a rainy day, or leaves their homework on the table, I don’t rush it to them at school, I use it as an opportunity for them to learn the consequences of their actions. It may seem harsh, but I think it’s important for them to learn responsibility.
If they see that it’s raining and they decide not to bring a jacket, they get wet. Cause and effect. Next time, they’ll be more likely to grab that coat, because they’ll remember what happened when they didn’t.
I know that it can be hard to let go of doing it all, but I suggest that you hang up your hat on doing everything for your kids, and encourage them to hang their own coats in the process.
Bianca Bujan is a mom of three, writer, editor, and marketing consultant. Find her on Twitter @biancabujan and Instagram @bitsofbee.