The tricky journey to independence

Just this morning, I reflected on the exact topic even before I read TurtleHead’s piece on kids and independence (are we living in a parallel world here, Lynn? Astonishing). Almost the exact same thing that happened to her happened here…

Weird.  🙂

My kids too had to pack stuff for a weekend away over Thanksgiving, and given the last time we went someplace and they had packed wrong, I took it upon myself to supervise the packing this time around.

One item was left in the bathroom for the 11yo. I said: “when you’re done with your deodorant and toothbrush, put it in your toiletry bag and place it in your suitcase”.

I left his toiletry bag on his counter in the kids’ bathroom. I thought this was a clear enough hint, and that he would see it when he brushed his teeth before we left.

Question for myself: do you know your kid at all? sigh…

Fast forward to the first night away and who didn’t have his toothbrush? Or the entire toiletry bag?


I thought with communication (words, lists, boards, calendar) crucial information would sink in. I bought a white board at the end of summer to help us out with the daily to-do/remember list and both kids say they read the board (and, in fact, sometimes make their own lists). I place the board in a strategic location, where everyone can see it.

I have yet to learn that if you’re my family, unless someone physically trips over it, you don’t (or choose not to) see it (and sometime even then).

I placed the damn board in front of the tv. That is one place everyone likes to park their eyeballs on. Does this work?

Ha ha hahahahahaah.


They will move the board without reading it (even if they wrote the note themselves).

What SHOULD happen is I should let it all fall down. That is the only way they’re going to really, truly learn. Question is, can I do this?

The answer is sometimes. Depends on the circumstances, doesn’t it. I mean, if she misses her bus, I can’t send a tiny almost 9yo girl 12 blocks to school on foot by herself…

Sigh again.

The next day, this happened:

The boy told me at 9 pm last night that his school has a football tournament today and could I pack him some extra snacks in the morning and wake him up a bit earlier? Bedtime is really not a good time to alert me to stuff like this. But I swallowed hard, kept my cool and said: “sure, but set your own alarm too”.

My alarm didn’t go off this morning. The batteries died. Because of course they did. 45 minutes after I usually get up (my usual wake up time is 6:15 am) I wake up, and instant panic sets in. I run to his bedroom and….he’s not there.

I take a bit of a breath. Ok, he set his alarm, no need to panic, I think to myself.


I walk to the open concept kitchen and…see this:

Both kids are on the couch, in pjs, watching cartoons. At 7:35 am.


He needs to be at school at 8:15 and take the streetcar to get there. Her bus leaves in 35 minutes.


I look at the table. Did they at least feed themselves some cereal?


I’m just so baffled and surprised, my instant reaction is to, well, REACT. I start yelling commands: breakfast! get dressed! waterbottle! snacks!

I still had to make her a lunch.

My brain hurts.

I asked my son: “What could you have done to avoid this mad rush this morning? I mean, you were up but you just parked your butt on the couch…”

He said; “I could have woken you up.” (Ok, fine, yes, but that’s not what I was getting at, exactly.)

I nodded. What else?

“I could have started my own breakfast”.

Yes, my son. And got your waterbottle ready, and packed some extra snacks, and gotten dressed….

I pointed to the board. He walked over and read it.

I said: “Reading it now is kind of futile, isn’t it?”


I realize this journey to independence is a long and winding road. But the training has started a long time ago, particularly because of the various sports activities the kids are involved in. It all comes back to habit. My son is very good at packing, or unpacking his hockey bag, but remembering a water bottle still gets forgotten more often than not.

I just want them to use their eyes, their vision, to see further and better. I want to take a step back and let them take control over their own life a little more. And I want this transition to be more smooth than it is. Letting the consequences of forgotten materials affect them is one step that I still have to take. The learning curve affects me, too, on so many levels.

Perhaps it’s time to do just that. Not just with the little things, but with the big, important ones too. That will be my greatest challenges, to watch my precious babies learn to handle their discomforts, hoping that it will teach them to be just a little bit more mindful over their own personal situations.

We will all get there eventually.

Knowing that I’m not alone though, that is a blessing in disguise. I know at least one family way out in Ottawa who is navigating similar challenges.



2 thoughts on “The tricky journey to independence

  1. WORD. You know I feel your pain! I especially love the story about them getting up, finding you not up yet, and then just sitting around watching cartoons. YES. I swear my kids, without step by step direction, would stand in the middle of the house with a dazed look, completely unable to feed or clothe themselves.

    A lot of people responded to my post saying that the packing disaster was a GOOD thing – that it taught them, hopefully, to pay more attention to the details and that there are consequences if they forget. So I’m going to try to take that to heart and, as much as it pains me, try to do a little less around here. It’s time, especially for my older two – if I can make myself do it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I spoke to a hockey parent while our boys were playing, and she also has a 15yo son. He opted staying home and not watching his brother play, and we got to talking about how kids do with instructions. She told him: you can either come to watch your brother’s game or you can stay home and rake the leaves and mow the lawn. He wanted to stay home.

      I said what do you expect when you get home? She said she had to leave itemized instructions, with details. Saying ‘rake the leaves’ to him would mean ‘rake the leaves’, not ‘and bag them up’. He would have left the leaves in the ditch. I said really? At 15, 16 you’re still doing that? She gave me the most incredulous look….yes, that is how it works with teens, apparently.

      Lynn, we are not done. Ours are just on the threshold of the teen years and yet…itemized detailed instructions will remain front and centre in our future.

      Isn’t that something.


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