I have never been good at taking parenting advice from so-called experts. I quit reading What to Expect When You Are Expecting before my morning sickness went away. I have returned nearly every parenting book I ever checked out from the library before reading more than a couple of chapters. It surprises exactly no one—especially me—that I take issue with more mom blog advice than I agree with.
Recently, I have read several posts about all the things you should NOT be doing for your teenagers as they prepare to launch into adulthood. Of course, I want my teen to be independent and ready for the adult world. We have been working on the skills on those lists for a long time, way before the teen years. He (and his younger siblings) learned in elementary school how to do their laundry and cook all the basics they would need to ward off starvation in college. In the last year, they have taken over filling out forms required for camp, the doctor’s office, and the like. Soon we will work on a skill that will no doubt be a challenge for my introverted boy—making his own appointments over the phone. Wish me luck.
However, there is one thing that pops up on these lists that I can’t get behind—packing his own lunch for school every day. Honestly, it has little to do with learning the skills and responsibility he will need when he moves away. He already knows how to cook. He cleans out his lunchbox at the end of the day so it’s ready to be refilled the next. He can arrange a decently nutritious collection of items with reheated leftovers or a bag of salad.
It isn’t about all of that. I make his lunch every morning while he brushes his teeth or eats breakfast because it helps him, and I want him to know that helping each other is what we do in our family. He sets his own alarm and gets up at 5:30 every morning to get ready for school. Even though I hear it, I catch another ten minutes of dozing while he showers. I would love to turn over and go back to sleep once I hear him stirring, but it is important to me that he doesn’t wake up to a dark house alone and then leave for his day without seeing a single person who loves him.
Why would I stay in bed, awake anyway because I can hear him getting ready? Instead, I can have a few minutes to chat about the quiz he will take today or hear a joke he read on Instagram. So soon, I am up too, and if I am up, why wouldn’t I do something to help make his day a little easier? Why would I drink coffee or browse Facebook when instead I can take something off his to-do list?
These are the most important lessons I want him to learn, even more than how to make a sandwich. Sometimes family looks like a hot lunch in a thermos in a noisy cafeteria. Family is showing up for each other even when we’d really rather stay in bed. Family is helping each other even when we could manage to do it all ourselves.