My baby is due in less than ten weeks – and I’m still without a middle name. First name is Julianna, after Marc’s cousin and grandmother and I need a name that goes with it. I’ve already nixed Rose because it’s Lilli’s middle name, and Grace, because it’s too popular. Marc doesn’t like Sophie. As it stands right now, I might have to go with Jessie’s suggestion of Julianna Chocolate Chip. Or skip the whole thing, and call her by Sam’s suggestion – Peanut Butter Cup Cup. If anyone has any suggestions – PLEASE let me know.
Not too much going on today – Marc’s working with Lilli on her science project. He’s got to be careful though, because his instinct is to do the whole thing himself and let Lilli and her friend just enjoy a playdate. Which brings up an interesting question for me – how much help is too much? How much independence do you allow your kids? For Valentine’s Day this year, Jessie’s teacher asked specifically for hand made Valentines, and clearly instructed parents to let their children do their own work. I ended up cutting out 25 hearts out of construction paper and let Jess write them out on her own. They were messy, some of them she signed from “Love your secret emir” (admirer), but I let it go because she did them herself. She’s seven, her artwork is clearly that of a first grader, and I thought that was fine. Not as pretty as I would have made it, but they weren’t my Valentines. And she brought home these gorgeous Valentines that were clearly designed and possibly executed by parents. I was so aggravated – because it was really hard to step back and let her make her own, and she ended up with these crappy looking Valentines as compared to some of her friends who produced pretty doily covered ones, with pre-printed stickers and artwork attached.
We’re pretty good with homework – she works on that independently, and I double check it. As long as she finished it, even if it’s wrong, I’ll usually let it go, because it’s hers, not mine. If I correct it for her, and she’s turning in perfect papers, her teacher isn’t going to realize that she still might need help. Am I doing the right thing? Are other parents correcting them before sending it in? Marc’s instinct is to do the work completely – he conceieved of the science project, which is measuring how long it takes water to freeze with the starting temp as a variable. He executed it – to the extent that he’s actually redoing the project this morning without Lilli even here because he felt the data was faulty as cups were on the door of the freezer as opposed to inside the freezer. He was in the middle of designing and laying out the poster when I pointed out that the girls weren’t actually doing anything for their science project. They kept him company yesterday, but that was about it.
I think, as parents, we’re so used to doing everything for our kids, that the kids don’t ever get a chance to really learn independence. If we don’t let them send in crappy Valentines – how will they ever learn to make pretty ones and be proud of them? If we plan out their science projects, do the experiments and make the poster, how are they ever going to learn to think for themselves? We want them to get the best grades, to be the best, and to not have to struggle – but only by struggling will they actually learn anything. But I don’t like being the parent who’s child brought in Valentines that were sloppy and childish compared to everyone else’s perfect ones. And I’m sure that Marc wants Lilli’s project to be really well done, and brilliant in it’s execution and presentation. But Jess is only seven – her hand made Valentines are supposed to be sloppy and childish. And Lilli isn’t getting anything out of this science project, other than learning that Daddy will do all the work for her.
I’m by no means a perfect parent. I struggle all the time. With letting go, with not controlling everything. I love controlling things – I’m pretty sure if I was in charge of everything – life in general would run a lot smoother. But I really try to ease back, letting them make mistakes and choices that aren’t going to do any serious damage, in hopes that when times get tough, they’ll have the confidence to be able to make the right choices. That’s my goal, anyway, that they’ll be able to stand on their own, and not only know that they are capable of handling whatever life throws their way – but actually be capable of handling it. I can praise them all the time, tell them how brilliant and smart and intuitive they are (because they really are) – but if I don’t give them the opportunity to experiment and do things on their own, they’ll never actually learn to think for themselves.