Not Quite There Yet

Our kids are now 13, 12, and 9, and Sir Monkeypants and I have been talking about how to make them more independent. There’s the teaching of skills, like cooking and cleaning and doing laundry, but there’s also an awareness issue – the ability to think ahead to what they need to do, and make time to do it. The ability to know they have a job to do – without being told – and to be able to gather all they need to do it, and make it so.

This weekend we spent just one night at my youngest sister’s house in Toronto for Thanksgiving. Since it was only one night, I didn’t do a lot of my usual packing Super Hardcore Anal Ninja work, where I create lists upon lists and pre-cook all our food and double check everything. On the day before we left I casually told the kids to go upstairs and pack their stuff. On their own.

HA HA HA HA. Laugh at my folly!

Each kid was to pack one change of clothes, one pair of jammies, one toiletries bag, one sleeping bag, and one single sleeping pad or mattress.

We got:

One kid with two PJ tops, and no bottom.

One kid with no top part to her change of clothes, and because she’d been wearing a fancy dress the day before, ended up coming home in her PJ top.

One kid with no toiletries bag – likely left behind at scouts camp, DON’T GET ME STARTED – and so cobbled together a makeshift bag missing half the usual stuff.

One camp mattress with no fan thingy to blow it up.

One camp mattress that was a double, which doesn’t fit in any of my sister’s guest rooms.

No camp pad at all for the third kid.


We survived and everything, but still. It seems we are not quite at the independence stage quite yet.

16 thoughts on “Not Quite There Yet

  1. lvsconsulting

    This is EXACTLY how you get to independence! Let them do it on their own and learn from their mistakes. You’re EXACTLY on the right track! Rinse and repeat.

    1. Capn Planet

      Amen. But most effective if they personally suffer the consequences for their failure, so don’t cover up for them.

  2. Reminds me of the time my son, who was about 4 or 5 at the time, assured me he had packed everything he needed for the weekend. When I opened his suitcase there was nothing in it but toy cars.
    Thanks for reminding me of that precious memory.

  3. MrsCarlSagan

    I am the Queen of List making. This past weekend we were away for 3 nights and for the first time ever I didn’t make a list. When I mentioned this to MrCarlSagan he looked horrified and said “But that’s what you do. You need a list’. I went on and on about how everyone should be able to figure out what to bring for themselves and I shouldn’t be sorting out everything for everybody all the time blahblahblahblahblah… Anyway, the kids did great – everyone was well equipped and didn’t miss packing a thing. I however, forgot my pyjamas and running shoes 🙂

  4. I’ve started leaving it up to them to help each other. So I’ll say “Let’s think through our trip – what will you need?” Once all the right things have been said, I send them up to pack themselves and ask my older son to answer questions my younger son might have.

    I also do quality control in the form of telling them to leave their packing in a pile in the hall and I will then put it in the bag they’re going to share. That way I might notice five shirts and no pants (although I frequently bring everything for everybody else and forget something like socks, or underwear for me!).

  5. Pingback: The tricky journey to independence | Writer of Words, etc

  6. smothermother

    I’m so with you on this. I think the jellybean needs to be more independent but then he asks the stupidest questions and I wonder if he is really ready to take things on himself. If he were really “solely responsible” for the gerbil, that dammed rodent would have been dead within the month. I guess it’s all trial and error. Rinse and repeat as IVSConsulting said.

  7. I coddle my kids horribly, and I go through wild cycles of being unrepentant about it and realizing that I’m ruining them for the real world. But that’s a whole post of its own. This reminded me of when Collette (my husband and I call her and her husband ‘the survivalist parents’, admiringly) got to camp a few years ago and her 14yo son had packed zero t-shirts. He wore a hoodie bare-chested the whole week. Live and learn.

  8. Marianne Tilton

    It’s a learning experience. Debrief with them what they would do differently next time! My girls have done some of their own packing for a long time. For one night trips I let them do it all. For longer, they pick the things but I physically put them in the bag so I can check over their choices. We started with simple lists when Maya was younger to guide her, and it was as much about getting her to stay out of my way while I got other things ready as it was about her doing the work. She taught Cloe to make the lists too. I review the list with them and add things like underwear to the list. They jow can pack for 1 night reasonably well without me or a list. They make a list for longer trips. It is super cute to watch!

    1. Marianne Tilton

      And I totally overused the word “list”. Too distracted making school lunches and typing at the same time!

  9. When my kids were that age, I used to let them pack themselves for trips and then together we’d go through it to see if everything was in there before we left. Today as young adults they seem to have figured it out. However, now it’s my husband who seems to need the help, he’s on a business trip today and just texted me that he didn’t pack socks…. Sigh.

  10. Suzanne

    this is the best way for them to learn! My kids (10 & 12) have been doing their own laundry since they were 8 or 9. I used a sharpie on the dryer and told them to line up the dots. and I wrote instructions on how to use the washer (I’ve seen my visiting mom use them too!)

    I saw a meme once “if they can use an iPad, they can use the washer”. sometimes they run low on clothes, and once or twice my son has gone to school with summer pj bottoms under his jeans because he didn’t have any clean underwear, but they know its their responsibility… and yay! 2 less loads of laundry for me!

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