14 October 2009

put on your own damn jacket

Paul heard an interesting quote this week - "The only thing we used to expect from our children was obedience. Now we expect everything but obedience."

He and I both liked it (we're big on obedience around here - or, rather, we try to be and fail miserably many, many a day), but I got to thinking - it's not really true.

We expect them to grow up, never having to obey, and turn out to be well-adjusted adults with proper boundaries, successful relationship skills, etc. So in that sense, i guess we do expect everything.

But we don't expect them to do things for themselves. I mean - my mother still makes haircut appointments for my 19 1/2 year old college sophomore brother. There are many reasons for this development - and i'm sure i'm not even right about all of them - and i'm not a psychologist or sociologist, so i'll not opine on that topic. But if you'd like to argue that our expectations of children taking care of themselves have not dramatically dropped, call me - we'll talk - i used to teach preschoolers.

I know i've been on a kick about child-rearing and educating lately - what can i say - it's my full time job.
So... Tip of the week (hee hee... me.. qualified to give tips! i love the comedy):
Please encourage your children to be as self sufficient as possible.

It will make your life easier, their lives easier, any caretakers' (especially three year old preschool teachers') lives easier.

Self-sufficient how, you ask? Well, children can do many things that we don't give them credit for or expect from them. I think because it's easier a lot of times for us to do it rather than help them/teach them/help remedy their ultimate failures. (See Pictures for Examples of "Failures from When Ada Brooks Was Three" - Fall 2007 was an amusing and exhausting time around here...)

(resulting from "Ada Bee - it's time for school - and it's a little bit cooler outside today - not quite summer weather anymore - starting to be fall time...")

(resulting from - "Ada - Take off your Tutu and Put on Pajamas, please - it's time for bed")

This is kind of abstract, so, a concrete example - Dressing Oneself:

Paul and I are in an epic battle to get Eason to dress himself. Why? Because Collins cannot really be expected to dress himself...and we've enough on our plates. And because Eason is perfectly capable of doing it.

And because we have fought these battles with Ada Brooks and I could not be more glad. Just yesterday evening, I said to her "hey - go hop in the shower" and thirty minutes later, I spotted her out of the corner of my eye, in pajamas, brushing her wet, freshly clean hair. That doesn't just happen - it has taken MANY frustrating bath time experiences - many of which have ended in me saying, "come on - get back in the bath - your hair is still dry for goodness sakes"

But now, my life is monumentally easier than it could be - i could be bathing three children instead of two - and really, i want to be dressing one child instead of two -

BUT - My life would be easier, in the short run, if i would just dress Eason. I could walk to his room, pick out bottom half, top half, hold them up, he could step in, put arms through holes and we'd be finished. 40 seconds, tops. So, I get why it is tempting - and on sunday mornings and any other stressful/aesthetically important times, I certainly dress the boy - I'm not running a military operation over here or anything.

But most mornings, the dressing of Eason takes 43 hours. Okay, maybe 14 minutes, but it seems interminable. First, Ada, Paul or I have to coach him through picking out clothes. This is not for the sake of style - more because Eason would forego underwear, a shirt, or pants on any given day, so we have to remind him that there are, in fact, three different necessary parts to being considered "dressed". Then, I have to encourage him in the putting on underwear process. I know underwear donning can be difficult. Especially for pregnant people and two-and-a-half year olds. But, it must be done. And it can be done. So, Eas, if you have to, sit down on the edge of your bed, hold them so the tag is in the back, and put in one leg at a time.

(It's at this point I start to wonder if I'm really making a stand on the dressing thing for my own amusement. Watching his little Michael Jordan Tongue Concentration Move is fairly awesome.) He's pretty much got the shirt thing down, so that's fairly easy. But we repeat the same underwear difficulty with the pants.

And then the shoes - heavens - but, if we can find them, he can get them on.

So mainly it's just the underwear and pants. They are hard. But we're getting better. And he whines and gets frustrated, because, like most men, he'd rather not spend a significant portion of his life dressing. He knows I could put the underwear on him in 3.1 seconds. And the pants in 1.6 (they're looser). But, more and more often, I'm able to say, "Eas - go put some underwear on." (I say this a lot- because he's inexplicably naked a lot...) and he'll reappear with underwear actually on.

I am winning the epic battle. I think. I hope. I pray.

You may think this is ridiculous. And you have the right to do that, I guess...

BUT - let me take you, for a moment, to a far away place in a distant land.
Well, just to a three year old preschool room. Your child's class lines up to go outside. It's 54 degrees. There are ten students. There are two teachers. We're talking ideal proportions here - many times it's more like 20 students and one teacher. It's jacket putting on time. Which is easier, do you think? "Susie, Bobby, etc., come here so I can help you put your jackets on" or "Susie, Bobby, please put your jackets on."

So - fight the epic battles! Whether its dressing themselves, putting away their folded clothes, actually folding their clothes (one i've not yet made a habit for Ada Brooks, but it's on the short list of goals), peeling their own bananas, helping pack their lunches, making their beds, setting the table. Fight them! For your own good, for their good, and for the good of preschool teachers everywhere.


  1. i always have fun reading your posts - especially when you talk about your "preschoolers." it's impossible for me not to wonder how many times you had to put on ren's coat! we try, but we alas, we fail on many occasions! :)

    we'll just keep fighting the battle!


  2. we love ren and all our little people! and he's a self-sufficient little bugger. y'all are awesome parents -
    eason currently has on flip flops - each of a different color.... we'll see if he learns to put his coat on by coat weather time....

  3. love it, love it! and jessie, ren was, hands down, our most self-sufficient child. remember, we never once had to change his diaper