On self reliance

April 28, 2006

To me, the term “self-sufficient” has good connotations. I began making my bed (when I remembered) and changing my sheets at age 5, getting myself ready for school (including breakfast) in first grade, began learning to cook at age 7, began doing my own laundry at age 12. I was the youngest of three kids, and I suspect among other motives, my mother was just tired at that point. But when I left the house I was more than ready. I could take care of myself, for the most part, and what’s more, I expected to. I lived back home for 9 months between college and grad school, and paid for my own phone and slightly-more-than-token rent during that time. I thought that more than fair, because I didn’t want my parents to have expectations of control over my life.
Would it have been nice if Mom continued to do some of those things longer in my life? Sure. Did I feel like I got cheated because my other friends didn’t have to do those things? No. I remember being mad that I’d have to mop after my crappy-sweeping brother, and I didn’t like chores much, but it never occured to me that I was being cheated out of childhood.

Yet I know parents who are reasonable, loving people who don’t want their kids to HAVE to be self-sufficient, who want them to have a “real childhood” that they think chores get in the way of. One of those kids is going to college next year without the wherewithal to make a sandwich or wash his socks. He can shovel a driveway, but last I checked, you don’t have to do that in a dorm.

Is it possible to have a full childhood, yet learn to take care of yourself? Is it unfair to expect an older child to watch a younger child at a reasonable age?