school

The mummy-shaming that actually made me change the way I parent.

Do you do too much for your children?

The other day I was shamed for carrying my sons’ school bags.

We were dodging raindrops and were running late for school. There I was, rushing my two boys along the street, when a rain-coated elderly lady stopped me.

“They’ll never learn independence if you keep babying them like that” she exclaimed. “They are big enough to carry those bags themselves.”

“Boys help your mother and carry them yourselves.”

I paused in the rain and stammered out an excuse. It’s raining. We are running late. They sometimes carry them. Have you seen what they carry in those bags?

The excuses fell on deaf ears. She had moved on in her socked, tatty rain-coat to berate another mother for her over indulgence. My boys reluctantly took their bags and trudged on to the gate while I tried to push aside the feeling of being judged.

I felt indignant. Was I a bad mother? What had I been doing all year carrying the bags of a five and seven-year old? I didn’t realise it was a no-no. 

Yes I do carry my sons’ bags to school. The fact is I carry them nearly every day.

I get their clothes out for them too and pack their lunchboxes.

I often, even, put their shoes on them. To be totally truthful on many days if you peeked in my window you would even see me physically putting my kindergarten son’s school top over his head.

Yes, I know its overparenting.

Yes, they could all probably do it for themselves but sometimes I just have to get out the door.

Yes I do too much for my children.

You know what I mean?

We hear so much these days about parenting techniques - the helicopter parents, the snowplough parents. About how we are breeding a generation of narcassists with “learned helplessness”.

Back when we were kids they would have just said spoilt.

You know I know all of this. I write about it on a daily basis. I know that carrying my son’s backpack for him isn’t teaching him self-sufficiency and yet the fact is we simply need to get to school.

If I don’t lay out the clothes or pack the bag, or put on the shoes, or carry the damn bag then I’m the one left nagging, and pleading, and cajoling and eventually yelling at my kids.

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Life is busy. I have a younger daughter to get to pre-school, two dogs that needs walking and a job to get to.

I say to myself that I don’t have the luxury of time to wait for my kids to do it for themselves.

And so now we try.

But in the back of my mind I worry in my hurry to get somewhere I am rushing away vital lessons that need to be learnt.

I reason with myself that my kids can learn independence and responsibility elsewhere. I think of the high expectations I have of them to complete their homework, to look after each other, to be kind and generous.

I justify it to myself while running through the list of tasks they complete each evening, putting their bags away, hanging up their hats, completing their homework.

My mind goes over all the things they have on, the soccer, the French lessons, karate, swimming. Their lives are jammed packed. They do enough. They are good kids.

It’s only a school bag.

And yet the words have replayed in my mind so much I am starting to wonder if maybe she is right. I wonder if my inconsistency will leave them self-entitled and lazy.

The problem with parenting is that there is no correct formula. Most days its just about making it to the end of the day without anyone getting hurt.

But sometimes, just sometimes,  old ladies in tattered raincoats are right.

At the ages of five and seven my sons probably should carry their own school bags. They probably should shoulder that responsibility. It is a tiny task that might just teach them something (And will save my aching back).

Sure there will probably be the odd day when I still glance at them with pity and heave the heavy bag onto my own shoulder. But that’s the indulgence of being a mother isn’t it. Occasionally, just ever so occasionally taking the burden for them.

 What little lessons do you try to teach your kids?

Want more? Try this.

The anonymous letter this mother received is cowardly, spiteful and downright nasty. 

I know you mean well but don't give my child THIS for his birthday.