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Parenting My Teenager: I’ll Keep Doing Things They Can Do Themselves

A few mornings ago, I made pancakes for my high school freshman.

The night before, she asked me, “I was wondering—and it’s totally fine if you say no—but I was wondering if maybe you could make me oatmeal pancakes for breakfast tomorrow?”

I could. And I did.

Parenting My Teen

Of course she could have made her own breakfast. She does, in fact, make her own breakfast other mornings when I can’t and don’t.

She didn’t actually need me to make her breakfast that day, but doing it for her smoothed out the edges of a morning that was headed toward rough.

And after I made those pancakes, I also packed her a lunch and threw in a load of her dance laundry.

I did some things for her that she can do for herself.

Yes, I made life a little easier for her.

I babied her.

And I know I’m not “supposed” to do these things. Before anyone reminds me, I know I’m supposed to teach my kids to fend for themselves, to be independent, and, most of all, not to need me anymore.

I know. I understand. Believe me, I get it. I even agree, mostly. We have these children to hold them, but we raise them to release them – and we need to equip and prepare them for that releasing.

Helping My Teenager When I Can

My teen does fend for herself. She is independent. She doesn’t need me as much anymore.

But when she asked if I’d make her those pancakes, I did it, and gladly.

And I’ll do it again. I’ll keep doing things for her that she can do for herself. I’ll make her breakfast and pack her lunch and do her laundry. She knows full well how to do these things. She does do these things. But I’ll keep doing them for her a lot of the time while she does so many things I can’t and shouldn’t do for her.

I can’t — and wouldn’t – go to school and navigate the minefield of high school friendships.

I can’t deal with peer pressure and annoying classmates and incomprehensible geometry and public displays of affection and cringe-inducing dress code violations, all before 9 a.m.

As her mom, I can’t decide what she wants to be when she grows up when the push to have already decided is coming from almost every direction.

I can’t run after her dreams and do what has to be done to make them a reality.

Her father and I can’t practice patience and kindness and self-control when teenage stress, exhaustion, and hormones—so many hormones—are bearing down hard.

I can’t balance 14 hours most weekdays of academics and extracurriculars and relationships with friends and family, all of them requiring dedication and determination.

While I Have the Chance

My teenager is the only one who can do these things that matter now and matter for her future.

But I can make pancakes for her. And so, that morning, I did.

When the time comes, this child who will always be a little bit my baby won’t be any less ready for life without me on a daily basis just because I made her a few breakfasts or washed a few dance leotards for her.

But maybe I’ll be a little readier for life without her at my kitchen table every morning if I do for her what I can do — even if she can do it for herself — while I still have the chance.

Elizabeth Spencer

Elizabeth Spencer is mom to two teenage daughters. When she’s not avoiding housework by spending time on her blog, Guilty Chocoholic Mama, or on Facebook, she plays the piano badly, bakes chocolate-chip cookies, and tries to keep up her lone talent of being able to stand on her head.