I’m a Person, Not a Convenience

I am not a coatrack. Or a bookshelf. Or anything else upon which you put things. My kids see my hands or lap as an invitation to hold their things. Yesterday my daughter stared me down, determined that I would hold her books in the doctor’s office. The chair next to her wouldn’t do. I stared back, determined not to hold her load. Sometimes it’s a matter of power. Sometimes it’s a simple matter of habit.

I am not a maid or a servant or any kind of hired help. But I fear the kids see me that way. When the kids were younger, I did things for them because they couldn’t. When they were old enough, I taught them. That’s the part we’ve had trouble with.

Sometimes my kids think my hands work better than theirs. My hands make quick work of putting away toys, cutting neater along the lines, and pouring without spilling. But my hands have had decades of practice.

While driving, I am expected to hold the steering wheel and juggle a wrapper someone threw in my direction, while wadding up a tissue and tossing it swiftly into the backseat. “Mom, you missed.”

“No, you missed,” I mutter under my breath. Can’t they move an inch?

When the kids were small, I didn’t mind taking their chewed sucker stick and disposing of it as I drove. Little did I know what monsters I was creating. At the time, I thought putting used gum away was better than finding it stuck to a seat somewhere.

Later my kids would bypass three trashcans in search of my hands and me. When they would find me, they offered me something—a bit of string, a used tissue. How many times can one be offered a booger? At ages when they want to be independent, my kids sure are fickle about it. My daughter has walked through the kitchen to hand me her dish to put away. At what point does it sink in that they can accomplish this task on their own? “Dishwasher,” I say.

My kids simply can’t multitask like I can, but I’m providing opportunity. Our van doesn’t have automatic doors. Someone has to actually take two seconds to close them. Every day after school, someone leaves that damn van door open. My hands may be filled with bags and keys and a water bottle, but my kids can’t seem to handle an extra task when their load is on their back. I’ve learned to hurry to the house, remind the last one out to close it.

Habits are hard to break, even for a mom who constantly tells her kids she isn’t the family maid.

The kids have come a long way in doing things for themselves. They still need reminders. When they do need me—for a hug or help or to tell me about their day—I’m open.

And every now and then, I still look down to find that I’m holding my daughter’s book, and I wonder how it got there.



Filed under Everyday Life

42 responses to “I’m a Person, Not a Convenience

  1. “How many times can one be offered a booger?” might be one of the most priceless motherhood quotes in all of blogdom. Awesome.

  2. Very great post. Deep insight into what goes on through a mother’s head. Loved your writing 🙂

  3. “At ages when they want to be independent, my kids sure are fickle about it.” So.Much.Truth. Even though my gal is at a very different age, she still tries to exert her independence only to get massively frustrated when she is unable to perform some simple task. It reminds me of how easily ambivalence comes to little people. Great post.

    • Yes, every age has that inner struggle. They want us, they don’t want us. I guess I’m that way too. I want them, I don’t want them! Growing up is rough. I guess it just shows that in some way they are still hanging on to needing us–for any little thing. Maybe?

  4. You jumped inside my head this morning, and read my post without even knowing it!!

  5. i laughed and cried while reading your post. you are a good person and a good mom. one day they will be doing it all, because you were who you were. enjoy the moments..

  6. oh i love how they pass three trash cans to hand you the garbage. that’s so my kids. and i’m schlepping 40 bags and they have to throw their knap sacks on me because they just can’t carry anything..? i’m much tougher now, but i agree, they see us as their ever helping hands.

  7. K. Eley

    I am going through the same thing at my house. They wonder why I’m always grumpy.

  8. My 6YO often asks me to solve his problems for him… The “big” ones, I’m there for… A boy makes faces at him at school, or a friend not wanting to play at recess… Sometimes they just exasperate all options and need some advice. But figuring out what to do with his dirty dishes or how to carry the laundry basket of clothes down the stairs…. Those things I have learned to tell him that I know he’s smart enough to figure it out on his own!! Since I’ve stopped telling him what to do with these “problems,” he’s become much more independent. Rarely does he hand me dirty dishes or trash anymore, thank goodness, although he does still think I can carry his backpack/library books/toys/etc when I am already carrying an armload of his baby brother! I feel your pain, although thankfully it’s getting better in our household too! 🙂

    • I’m much better at delegating chores now. And they’re much better at voicing their opinions about them. Sometimes we still fall into the same old routines out of habit though and I think, Why am I doing this??

  9. It is a battle every day for my son to carry his own backpack into the house, after school. He is five. He also thinks I am a chef in a restaurant because he thinks I will cook whatever he wants, whenever he wants.

  10. My child NEVER asks me to hold anything anymore. I was sure to establish that rule early. It’s not because I don’t want to help her out; it’s because I lose things more than she does.

  11. You just described my life. My son is almost 11 and sometimes I still have to remind him he’s perfectly capable of getting his own apple juice or making his own bowl of cereal. He’s getting much better at putting things away and helping with chores around the house without me asking him. When I was his age I was babysitting other kids! By the way, I laughed at your “how many times can one be offered a booger?” So true!

    • I often think to myself that I need to get my son ready for being on his own. I am determined he will be able to fend for himself soon. By the time he hits middle school, he is going to be able to watch his sister so we won’t need sitters anymore! I think we have a long way to go.

  12. But I bet when your kids are away from you (say, at Grandma’s) they can take of their own needs. Am I right? I remember leaving my three at my folks for a weekend, and being totally shocked when my mother commented on how “helpful and independent” they were! That’s the real test! Not how they act with you, but how they act when you aren’t there.

  13. I always love your posts and this one is no exception. My version of this would be titled, “I am not a napkin.” My youngest seems to think that my clothes exist to give her a place to wipe her hands when she doesn’t feel like reaching for a napkin, tissue or her own clothing. I guarantee she doesn’t do that to her teachers or sitters, but apparently, I’ve taught her my jeans are her jeans. Ugh! Great post!

    • Oh yes! Good point. When my daughter cries, she runs to me, certainly for a hug, but sometimes just so she can wipe the tears and snot off her face. She’ll calm down and come back so she can wipe again. I’m softer than a tissue I guess.

  14. Yes! I’m pretty sure my boys think I live to pick up after them. I finally taught them to throw used tissues in the trash, but they’re not too concerned when they miss. They both have allergies so this time of year, the bathroom floors are littered with Kleenex. And their dirty socks always end up on the floor in the den. (Unless our dog, Jack, finds them. He picks up their shoes or socks and leaves them on my bedroom floor or sometimes, if he thinks I’ve left him alone in the house too long, on my bed.)

    • Anyone who knows me well would laugh at the tissue remark. I’m known for leaving tissues around. But at least I don’t expect anyone else to pick them up–because I know they won’t! 😉

  15. 🙂 I get offered boogers all the time! 😉 we will see when he gets bigger! Hope you will have a wonderful Memorial weekend with your family! 🙂

  16. Lisa

    Just wait you’ll get’em back. Another 40 years and they’ll be holding things for you. 🙂

  17. That line in the sand is easy for them to step back and forth over at will.

  18. The booger line is priceless, Karen! There’s not a mom in the world that doesn’t relate to this post. Neither do we have automatic doors (did they even offer them in 2003?), so I simply begin to drive away (slowly) until someone realizes the door is open and closes it. I gotta draw the line at stuff clearly out of my reach.

    • When I used to drop the kids off at preschool, sometimes teachers wouldn’t close the van door and would walk away. I’d either sit there for a long time waiting or I’d crawl back there and do it myself. I needed a sign that said, “This door doesn’t close itself.” I think ours is 2003 too, Shannon.

  19. I am with you on this one! My friend’s mom had a rule that if the kids (or husband) wanted her to get something or ask her for something, they couldn’t yell from the next room for it – they had to come into the room where she was and ask for it there (unless it was the bathroom, I guess). My kids are little now so I am not really adhering to it, but I am thinking when they get bigger, I will!

    • No matter how much independence I try to instill in my kids–and I do–they will still try to get me do their grunt work. I guess they figure it’s worth a shot. I think the older they get, they see my doling out jobs to them (or requiring something like that of your friend’s mom) as laziness on my part. They must think I need jobs too. 😉

  20. Of course your hands work better than theirs 🙂 I love your stories, they always make me smile, motherhood here sounds so rewarding!

    • Thank you. It is very rewarding. One day I’ll be 80 and need their hands to do things for me. 😉 But honestly, when I’m 80, this is the stuff I’ll be most grateful for in my life.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s