Since my sons were born, I’ve spent more of my waking hours caring for them than I’ve spent caring for myself. I don’t mention this as a complaint. It’s just what is. It is the nature of the beast of parenting. When you decide to bring another life into this world, you change the course of your own irrevocably. With our recent revelations about our sons and their learning difficulties, I’ve spent more time doing things for them than I have in a while. My life has been a blur of paperwork, interviews, conversations, and applications. Because my husband is already a full-time, paid, paper-pusher elsewhere, these tasks fall to me. While all the filling in blanks and checking off boxes is tedious work, it’s infinitely preferable to all the nose and butt wiping I’ve managed to leave behind as the boys have gotten older. I’m still doing things for my boys, but at least the things I’m doing are becoming less odious. I’ve always felt it was a parent’s duty to do all they can for their children to give them a leg up in this world. Tonight I realize I was at least partially wrong.
As the hours inched on toward bedtime, I realized I needed to make Luke’s lunch. I didn’t want to. I just did not feel like it. As a rule, not feeling like it is not ample enough excuse to avoid the task, so I suck it up. Tonight, I was happily lazing on the sofa researching spring break options and watching Sunday Night Football. Making lunches sounded like a dismal reason to get off my expanding hindquarters. So, at 9:15, when my son should have been headed up to bed, I made a lazy parent decision.
“Luke,” I bossed, “go make your lunch.” There. No longer my problem.
“You want me to do it?” he asked, surprised.
“Yep. You know how you like your sandwich. You will make it better than Dad or I could, anyway. Get busy.”
At this point, I was certain I would encounter verbal backlash or, at the very least, a small whimper or whine. But, none came. Luke simply marched into the kitchen and started gathering his materials. In five minutes he had assembled his lunch: a PB&J (crusts jettisoned, of course), a plastic sleeve filled with organic yogurt, a small container of Goldfish crackers, a “healthy” (read: no food coloring or high fructose corn syrup) fruit roll-up, and an organic vanilla milk. He shoved it carefully into his Star Wars: The Clone Wars lunch box and was about to flee the scene when I called him back and made him clean up the mess, which he also did without fuss. Then he headed upstairs to play a round of Draw Something with me on his brother’s iPad while I stood there, jaw hanging open and hand scratching my head.
Years back, I had allowed our sons to make their own lunches one time. It was only one time because they had assembled lunches filled with Halloween candy, cans of soda, and a measly sandwich. In the process, they had turned our kitchen into a replica of the food fight scene from Animal House, and I’d had to shoo them out and start over but with twice the amount of work. I chalked it up to immaturity and boyhood. I figured they weren’t ready. In fact, I wondered if they might never be ready. Tonight, though, our 9 year old son made his own lunch and it was no big deal. There was no whining. There was no colossal mess. I was tempted to look around for the hidden camera. He’d completed the entire task without drawing blood or destroying the kitchen. And….and…the best part was that I hadn’t even had to get off the sofa for it all to happen. Perhaps it wasn’t the best lunch in the history of lunches and yet it was because I hadn’t had to make it.
It got me to thinking. My boys might be a lot more capable than I’ve previously thought. I started to wonder if I’m doing too much for them. Perhaps they’re at the ages now when they are ready to take on greater responsibility. Not only would it save me some work, but it would also give them an opportunity to experience all they are capable of. It will build their esteem. It will increase their skill set. Holy cow! I’ve been robbing my children of the gift of self-sufficiency. Well, no more, I say. There are so many things I should not be doing for my boys. The possibilities are endless. Wait. Just ahead. Do you see it? That light? It must be the end of the tunnel.