During the school week on any given day, Sebastian and Abigail have anywhere from 2 bags and 6 school bags to remember to take to school and bring home. These school bags contain the various pieces of kit they need to do their activities at school. These activities include, piano lessons, ballet, pe, judo, violin lessons, swimming, games and just their normal homework bag. They also need to remember to wear every day without exception their blazers and caps/hats. Now you might say these rules are harsh. But these are the rules and part of our contract with the school we have chosen is that we follow their rules.
Obviously, Abigail at 4 (nearly 5) requires a bit of help. I have put a laminated sheet on the refrigerator with little pictures of the activities and she does pretty well in the morning checking it and will invariably go running for her hat if she has forgotten it before running out the door. but of course she has 1/4 of the kit to remember.
Sebastian is another story altogether and he's been doing this for much much longer.
Monday as I was standing at the school gates I was approached by a mother/nanny who handed me one of a pair of Sebastian's football shin pads. Luckily, this one had his name written in big bold permanent marker all over it, a hard learnt lesson after 2 previous pairs of shin pads went missing during last school year. I spotted Sebastian sauntering back from the playing fields urged on by two of his football coaches. Seb was wearing his brand new (literally 4 weeks old) school shoes. He had obviously been wearing said shoes to play football in. It was a wet rainy muddy day on the football pitch and the shoes were soaked through.
I was incredulous and asked Sebastian where his football boots were. He didn't know. I asked him where his trainers (tennis shoes) were. He didn't know. I pointed out that his new school shoes were ruined. He shrugged his shoulders and said we could get him a new pair.
I had a meltdown. Two very important lessons we as parents MUST teach our children is the value of money and respect for property. But how? Well, I'll tell you: I emptied his room of all of his property and informed him I was selling it on eBay to try to buy him some new shoes (3 pairs at this point). Of course I don't think I couldn't buy myself a beer with the proceeds were I to do such a thing but I think he might be getting the idea.
So what does all this have to do with helicopters? I've read several articles recently about the new epidemic of helicopter parenting and I am shocked. The stories I read detail how parents go on job interviews with their 20 something grown children or negotiate their salaries and benefits packages. Parents are even calling in sick to work for their adult-children. But the worst story I've heard is where a father called up his daughter's future manager to explain that his precious little girl "was particularly sensitive and would require an harmonious environment to work in". Are they having a laugh?
Children must learn to take care of themselves, be able to learn from setbacks and address their own disappointments in life. In short children must learn to cope with the consequences of their actions. This will ensure that they are capable decision makers and responsible contributing members of society when they are adults (and their parents are no longer around to make their decisions for them).
So, just how much should I interfere to ensure that Abigail and Sebastian are well prepared for their school day? I firmly believe that parents should include independence and self sufficiency in their critical success factors for child rearing. Should I let Sebastian incur minus points (which could eventually lead to detention/expulsion) for losing his football boots and trainers or failing to wear his cap? Should I take away his savings (and any future earnings for the next 2 years) to replace the lost items? Should I pull him out of those elective activities which could possibly hamper his future prospects?
Of course my natural impulse is to make sure he's got everything with him when he leaves in the morning and when he comes home in the evening. But then I'm just a helicopter.