Real Life

The Golden Years: how raising independent, empowered kids can make parenting fun

When I was a new mother holding my infants in slings, I’d look at school aged kids (7-13) and wonder how in the world I’d survive those awful years. I actively imagined my own kids dirty, loud, void of any personality, and pulling on my arm through stores as I shouted obscenities for them to hurry up and come on. Spoiler Alert: I’ve changed my mind.

recently the boys made their own lemonade stand with a “start up investment” they had to pay back

As a preschool teacher in my early 20’s I really enjoyed the kids I taught (up to age of 5); I fondly remembered what it was like to be friends with my parents as a teen. But that middle age group eluded me – and frankly, scared me. I wanted nothing to do with it.

mommy dates with my boys are prized, not feared

But with 3 kids aged 7, 9, and almost 12 – I can tell you these are the golden years.

Cole earns privileges with chores: weekly laundry & mowing
this is in addition to daily chores for all boys: dishes, trash, clean rooms

Right now in this very moment I’m chillin’ on my front porch, jammin’ to Bob Marley, drinking coffee, and my oldest is mowing the lawn. (our new Electric Mower is light weight and easy enough for him to push, plus we are sitting here watching him). I slept in until 10am because my kids didn’t bother me. I’m starring at my husband across from me – we’re enjoying life more than I can ever remember.

yes, Finn’s hair has permanent hair dye, because that’s what he wanted –
it’s his body and hair can be cut or regrown

I can’t imagine the years when my kids are gone possibly being better than this. Yesterday my 9 year old made us all breakfast – scrambled eggs with blueberry muffins. Due to the move, they’ve built several pieces of furniture for us. It’s a magical time for sure.

My kids have been raised, since they were babies, to be independent. Our parenting philosophy has always been one of empowerment – can they do it? Then we let them. They carried their own bags in preschool. They played out side – not just within our fence line. They were encouraged to try new things. In 2011 I even wrote this blog post dedicated to the idea of raising “unsmothered kids.”

It is this independence, empowerment, and encouragement to truly be whoever they want that has allowed them to be their best selves.

Are they perfect? Definitely not! Have we had tough times? Of course! But that’s the case for us all. I think of the boys as being just tiny adults – not a “child.” I don’t ever want to “baby” them with words, actions, or even food. It’s my job to expect them to have bad days, just like me, and treat them with the same respect I expect. As a result, they are fun, funny, interesting, unique – each one has his own personality that has been fantastic to get to know. Learning more about each one and seeing them develop into them best selves been life changing for me personally – this is a magical time because they are also around to do chores, make me smile, and offer snuggles.

It was also made apparent to me last week when the boys stayed home with family friends for 5 days while Matt and I went to Chicago. We’d planned this trip last year before Andrew passed, and had planned for him to stay with the boys. They always stay with family that knows them well. But this time it was someone less familiar. And each day that I’d check in, I’d hear how independent and relatively easy they were – that it was fun to hang out with them, and everyone was doing great. From trips to the pool to a safari ride at the zoo – everyone was having a blast!

There is no greater measure of successful parenting to me than knowing I’ve prepared my kids to head off successful in the world – and at this age, hearing that ‘report’ from home was exactly that. My kids were fine – healthy, happy, independent, fun people who didn’t need me. They missed me, we talked – but they were just find on their own. I can’t imagine a time period when they aren’t here as “golden.” The here, the now – it’s better than I ever could have imagined. ♥

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  • leslie

    Oh I just love this. I’ve tried very hard to stay out of my kids’ ways, let them try things, from cutting strawberries to climbing really high playground ladders and rock walls, to running down the sidewalk away from me, to going through a fit or a fight until the end when they can figure the way out of it (ages 5 and 2.5). They’re always watched, but I’ve gotten better at standing aside. They are amazingly independent and so strong and confident! My girls are very different from each other, but wow. Some parents have chided me for allowing them to do things, but I can’t imagine getting in their way. They’re so used to forging up and ahead and through challenges that I doubt I could stop them. I watched my 2.5 year old climb up a playground rock wall today that is 12 feet tall. And she did it over and over and over, finding different paths and going faster than I probably could. It was inspiring. I notice now how people narrate ‘be careful’ into kids lives. There are constant warnings and ‘help,’ but I’m learning to not do that. My kids are confident and will learn. I will step in if I need to, but it’s amazing how much they figure out themselves. But they are also cuddle-bugs and love to spend time with us. They don’t feel abandoned. They feel supported and safe and loved. Sorry to go on and on, but I’ve just been reflecting on this today and realizing how amazingly fun my kids are and how well they are navigating through their worlds. I hope we are on a similar path!