Having kids comes with juggling lots of accessories for daily life in school and extracurricular activities. Water-bottles, shoes, backpacks, basketballs, uniforms, library books, and more.
Maybe that’s easy for some of you, but coming from an adult who has been known to lose his keys multiple times per day, keeping track of other peoples stuff can lead to overwhelm. My wife seems perfectly fine with keeping track. She’s organized. I’d be the one to forget the basketball loading my son up for basketball practice.
Early on in my son’s life, I explained to him that he would have to keep track of his own water-bottle, his own hat, whatever it may be. “Dad doesn’t keep track of your stuff,” I’d explain to him. That’s your job. Openly and honestly, I shared with him that it’s enough work for me to keep track of my own accessories.
Turns out kids crave responsibility like this. According to Jessica Lahey in The Gift of Failure, children crave autonomy. There is a drive inside them to be independent and grow away from us the minute they are weened. You know this if you’ve ever watched a baby learn to walk. My kids would always manage to pivot and walk away from dad’s open arms. Responsibilities to watch over their things provides some of this autonomy for them.
But it’s hard. It’s hard to let them struggle in remembering and forgetting their things. Dropping off my son for basketball practice, we are not allowed to go in to the practice gym because of Covid-19 precautions. I pulled up to the school and asked him if he wanted me to walk him in, and he said no. I told him that I’d sit there for three minutes and to come out if the coach wasn’t there. After a few minutes, I buckled up to head out when there was a tapping on my window. My son was there, and I thought that we had the practice time wrong. Turns out he forgot his shoes.
He was back in the throws of a learning moment. He was responsible for his own shoes. Sure, together we had brought his ball, his water-bottle and basketball shoes into the car, but I hadn’t reminded him about the shoes when he exited the car. He took off to practice with the water-bottle and basketball only. Dad didn’t help. In fact, I sat in the car, listening to an audio book and was completely oblivious to the fact that the shoes remained on the floor of the passenger seat. He continues to learn that his accessories are his responsibility. He wasn’t mad or frustrated. He simply learned something.
Think about your big moments of learning. It’s usually when something goes wrong, a mistake is made, you a corrected in a way that triggers a memory in your brain. Add up enough of these memories, and kids can develop the responsibility to watch over their own things. They can develop the responsibility to do their own homework. Cleaning their own room? Well, we’re getting there. I can’t say I’ve figured out the exact way to stay on top of my sons room yet. If you have suggestions there, email me.