My son came home from school the other day, had a really hard work out, and was worn out. While he was taking a nap, I made him a special snack– he loves hearty protein shakes and I wanted it to be ready for him when he woke up. He didn’t ask me, I did it out of love.
I hate to admit this, but it’s rare I do things like this for my kids these days. Yes, I make dinner every night, and take care of them when they are sick, but they take charge when they are home and make their own breakfast, lunch, and snacks. They don’t need me to tuck them in bed and read them a bed time story. They are capable of remembering all their things for school (for the most part), and there are times when they are the ones reminding me of what appointments we have.
As I stood in the kitchen, throwing bananas in the blender, I looked over at his huge body on the sofa and it made me realize how much I’d missed doing things like this for my kids– I certainly don’t nurture them as much as I used to, and while that can be nice, I so miss taking care of them in certain ways.
When I do a little something like pack their lunch for them, or braid my daughter’s hair, it’s a way to connect and bond. And as our lives have gotten busier, it’s easy to lose sight of that as we are rushing around just trying to make it through the day.
There are days when I find we are all testy with each other and argue and it’s so clear it’s because we aren’t taking the time to invest in our relationship– just like all the other loves in our life, if we want something to grow, it needs tending.
I catch myself telling my kids to do a lot for themselves; they are capable, and I believe it makes them stronger and gives them self-confidence. But we all appreciate it when someone does something nice for us just because. It’s not spoiling them, it’s simply a way parents show their love to their children. But there is also comfort in taking care of them in a way that makes me feel like it is making a difference in their day– it’s one of the biggest reasons I wanted to become a mother. I was so ready to care for and teach another human, the desire overtook me– that doesn’t fade away when they are teens, in their 20s, or older.
There is a lot going on in their brains at this time and it’s easy to fall into the trap of doing too much for them. Parents of older kids still experience times when it’s just easier for us to do things ourselves instead of asking them to lend a hand. And they do get a bad rap for being lazy, ungrateful, and unaware of those around them, mostly because it’s true.
We work hard to keep that in line and raise caring, compassionate people, but that doesn’t mean the need to care for them goes away. And there is no better way to show them how to treat others than having them watch us practice it ourselves.
I am constantly reminded this parenting of teens thing is a two-way street. The other day, I was bringing in the groceries while my son was doing his homework, he got up and helped me without asking, even though his mind was occupied with his geometry.
I told him not to worry about it, “I got it,” I said.
“Mom, it just takes me a second to get up and help you. It makes it easier for everyone. Plus, I want to see what you bought, I’m hoping you got me those crackers I love,” he answered as he loaded up his arms with 5 grocery bags.
He could have sat there and not helped him mother, and maybe a snack was his motive, but it didn’t matter. In that moment, he was showing me how much he cared by doing something little, like helping me with the groceries without being asked.
I’d like to think part of that comes from me teaching how to help others, and be self-sufficient. But I also know he’s compelled to do things like this, because he gets the same behavior in return. It made me make a mental note to slow down and do small acts of kindness for my kids. You can’t put a price on what you (and they) get out of it.