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ParentHack: Sleeping In Mornings Before School So They Step Up

My kid was gone when I came down for breakfast this morning. Not missing in an alarming way. Off to school, on the bus, with his lunch and all his stuff. The good kind of gone.

I used to always see my kids out the door. One of the perks of my work-from-home job is that I can enjoy the morning send-off and make sure they get a good start to their day. I happily helped with lunches, and I did all the preschool drop-offs and walks to elementary school. (I still walk my youngest, and it’s a lovely time of day for both of us.)

Somewhere along the line, I accidentally slept through my seventh-grade son’s departure. I suppose my excuse is that in early winter, when the days are short, it’s still dark when he heads out the front door. Then I slept past it again, and I decided this was getting silly: I really should get up to say goodbye to my firstborn.

Next time I heard the familiar morning stirring, I blinked my way downstairs to find my son and husband in the kitchen.

“Hi, Mom.”

“Hey, good morning. Do you have your lunch packed?”

“Yeah. Can you do me a favor and grab me some strawberries? Oh, and Mom, would you mind getting my trombone from the car? I just have to brush my teeth. I’ve got to go.”

What was happening here?! All those mornings without me, he had gotten the job done on his own. He was making the bus, and it wasn’t because he was asking his dad the same things he was asking me. He just, uh, did it.

My son was fine without me. But when I showed up, he suddenly needed me.

Confession time: I can’t blame him. I was the one who’d enter the kitchen and ask whether there was any fruit in his lunch and, oh, by the way, did he know his socks didn’t match? And was he sure he didn’t want to wear long pants today?

So maybe it wasn’t that he needed to separate from me. This wasn’t a get-tough-on-lazy-kids thing. Instead, it’s that sometimes I need to separate from him, too.

I’m still working on it. But you’ll be so proud of me: Today was picture day. That outfit—whatever it is—will be all him. Just like his mornings.

Sharon Holbrook

Sharon Holbrook is managing editor of Your Teen.