Scene One: A family is driving through their small town. A mother is at the wheel, her daughter is sitting in the front seat; her son is in the back. As the mother approaches a stop sign she turns to her daughter.
Mother: Do you think you could walk to choir from here? It’s not very far, and it would make it so much easier for me to get home.
Daughter: [Shrugs] Sure. Bye, Mom. [She exits the vehicle, and confidently crosses the street. She raises her hand to wave goodbye, and then walks down the hill without looking back.]
Scene Two: The same mother, daughter, and vehicle. They’re heading to a thrift store. The mother puts on a Spotify playlist through the car’s Bluetooth speaker.
Daughter: What’s the name of this song?
Mother: Joy by Andy Grammer. Do you like it?
Daughter: Yes. [She’s in the front seat, so she can access all the media controls – she turns up the volume.]
A few minutes later, a different song.
Daughter: What’s the name of this song?
Mother: Love Broke Thru by TobyMac. Do you like it?
[She rummages through the center console to find a pad of paper and pen. She proceeds to write down the name of almost every song on her mother’s Spotify playlist.]
Scene Three: At the thrift store.
Daughter: What do you think of these shoes?
[The mother looks down at the glitter shoes with a tiny – but perceptible – wedge heel on her daughter’s feet, not sure how to respond.]
Scene Four: The mother is trying on clothes; the daughter is sitting outside the change room on a wooden chair.
Mother [under her breath]: What I really want to find is some new-to-me shoes.
[Seconds later, several pairs of shoes slide under the curtain.]
Daughter: I found some in your size. What do you think?
Scene Five: The mother and daughter are back in their car, on the way home from the thrift store.
Daughter: I really need to use the washroom.
Mother: Hmmm. Do you think you can make it home?
Daughter: Yeah, I can.
Mother: Actually, let’s just stop at the gas station by the traffic lights. Can you run in by yourself while I find a parking spot? I’ll be waiting right outside when you’re done. Do you think you can find the bathroom okay?
[A few minutes later the daughter emerges. She proceeds to buckle herself in – of course she buckles herself because, one day (a day the mother can’t recall specifically), this daughter stopped needing a 5-point-harness or a booster seat.]
Daughter [Picks up her notepad and continues to work on her playlist]: Don’t worry, I washed my hands.
Daughter: Can you put that Joy song back on, please?
Scene Six: At the family home. The son opens the entryway door. He has walked home from supper at a friend’s house.
Mother: Hi, honey! How was supper?
Son [Taking off his shoes and lining them up somewhat neatly]: Oh, it was good. I’m hungry.
Mother: Didn’t you have enough to eat?
Son: I had a huge bowl of lentil soup. It was good.
Mother: And you’re still hungry?
Son: Mom, I’m always hungry.
Mother [Quiet sigh]: Okay. What would you like to eat?
Son: I think I’d like some scrambled eggs.
[He walks to the fridge, opens it, and locates an egg carton. While the mother puts the pan on low heat and adds a dollop of butter, the son opens a cupboard door to get the folding stool. He sets the stool up in front of the stove. He cracks two eggs, puts the empty shells back into the egg carton neatly and then slowly scrambles both eggs in the pan.]
Son [Several minutes later]: There. Perfect.
[He gets off his stool and rummages in a different cupboard for some tortilla wraps. He hops onto the counter to get a plate, locates a bag of shredded cheese in the refrigerator and sprinkles cheese very deliberately over the tortilla, making sure there is even coverage. He walks to the microwave, heats the tortilla until the cheese is melted, adds a healthy portion of eggs, squirts on a line of ketchup, folds up his wrap and carries his plate to the dining room table.]
[They both sit at the table, the mother and her son.]
Son [Between bites]: Wow. This is really good. [The mother and son talk until he finishes his wrap.] I’m going to go make another one.
[The son repeats the process, solo, while the mother sits at their dining room table and watches her son maneuver around the kitchen. The bittersweet reality of the moment is palpable. After the son finishes his second wrap he loads his dirty plate (the mother has to remind him to do this) into the dishwasher and goes to his bedroom to put on two-piece dinosaur pajamas.]
To Be Continued…
Your turn. Do you have vivid memories of major independence milestones from your childhood? If you have kids, how does independence factor into your parenting experience these days – are 5-point harnesses a distant memory or a current reality?
Header photo by Abdul Azeez Garbadeen on Unsplash
32 thoughts on “Director’s Copy: Independence Scripts”
I remember cooking pancakes every Sunday morning for my parents (I lived on a farm and they milked cows every morning and evening). I would gauge when they would be done and make them fresh as they were finishing up.
My kids have been getting themselves to school most days this school year. That has been a big independence milestone and a necessity as my life shifted to being back in person at work!
I loved the independence and also putting on dinosaur pyjamas!
Aww. What a sweet memory for you AND your parents, I’m sure.
Yes, there is still the wonderful juxtaposition of scrambling an egg…and then picking out very kid-centric pajamas (and begging for a long snuggle). Best of both worlds?
I like your daughter, she who knows to write the names of the songs on a real list for you. I’m chuckling at that. As for personal milestones from my childhood, I can’t think of any. I matured, I took on more chores around the house, but no one moment stands out. And then I went to college. Probably just as well that I have no interest in writing a memoir!
Ha! She is very much a list girl and LOVES to write everything down.
And I laughed at the final note of your comment: Probably just as well that I have no interest in writing a memoir! Judging by how you write, I think your memoir would be a runaway bestseller and can imagine some very hilarious stories would lurk inside the pages…
Oh this made my heart so happy. These signs of maturity and independence are so wonderful.
I had to laugh at the eggs scene — my daughter made herself (supervised) scrambled eggs for breakfast this morning. The egg milestone is a good one.
Scrambled eggs for the win! (Though you hate eggs don’t you…?)
Well you know I really don’t have much to add her, but this is a nice peak into what the future will look like for us! We are still in the very hands on/constant surveillance/active management phase of parenting! But when I do drop off by myself, while I take Will’s shoes off/put on his slippers and help him wash his hands, Paul can go to his room and do the same w/out intervention typically. But that is the only thing that comes to mind!!
You are in the middle of it all, Lisa. It is amazing how quickly some of the intensity of being hands-on can dissipate (which you know with Paul getting more and more independent), but boy it sure can be exhausting for those first few years!!!
It’s all bittersweet, of course – I like that the kids can wash their own hands, but it also makes me sad there are no Sunday afternoon naps anymore…
I’m with Ally – I don’t think I actually remember any of these milestones. I think it’s lovely that you’re writing these down and I hope your children will someday read these posts and feel your love rolling off the page. I mostly remember my parents as helicopter parents before that was a normal thing and honestly not knowing what to do when they dropped me off at college for the first time and it was the first time in my life I was unsupervised or under a very strict time limit. It was jolting, to say the least.
That transition away from home sounds tough, NGS. I know you’ve become very independent indeed, but can imagine how scary and overwhelming it all felt at the time!
My parents were pretty big on independence; sometimes I took it for not caring (for example, one of my friends would regularly have her temperature checked and my Mom – a nurse – NEVER checked my temperature; she’d feel my forehead and move on…she always tended to me if she felt I was really sick, but she wasn’t one to hover/baby us). We all (my siblings and I) left home quite early, too, so had to jump into the deep end in terms of independence. I suspect many of my parenting methods stem directly from how I was raised – which was to become independent! Learn to cook, clean, drive, pay bills etc when you’re home so it’s easier to acclimate to the “real” world when you leave the nest. It’s a fine balance, though. My parents struck it well, but I can appreciate it is so very difficult to provide enough freedom while also supporting kids in the many ways they still need to be protected/helped along. They aren’t adults yet and sometimes we can expect way too much of kids (especially emotionally). Instead of sink or swim, more like: swim…I’ll show you how and bring along a life jacket just in case.
This was fun (and a little bittersweet, if I look at it from your perspective) to read. I am glad you’re writing some of these things down. Sometimes when I ask my mom about certain milestones from my childhood, she shrugs her shoulders and says “I don’t remember” – haha.
My parents were both teachers and back in the day, my mom would usually be home from school around the same time my sister and I got home (we went to the same elementary school where my mom taught, but we often walked home by ourselves). One thing I remember is that occasionally we were home earlier than our parents and my sister and I would make ourselves a can of noodle soup on the stove. I find this astonishing now, as we were maybe 7 or 8 years old. I am not sure my sister would have allowed my niece and nephew at that age to use the stove unsupervised. Would you? I feel like parents might have been a bit more laid-back back then.
Ha! Parenting was soooo different even a decade or so ago. I think there are pros and cons to both generations. I’m trying to blur the lines and focus not on old vs. new methods but on what makes sense in terms of raising healthy, happy, well-adjusted kids who can/will want to contribute to the betterment of society. And I think that can start by letting them scramble their own eggs…
Hmm. I wouldn’t leave my kids home alone and they are DEFINITELY not allowed to use a stove unsupervised yet – but this definitely sounds like something that would have been normal 20 years ago!
It’s also interesting what we consider “risky” too. I’ll never forget a doctor telling me, when I confessed that my very colicy baby was sleeping on their stomach – that the most dangerous thing I could possibly do with my baby was strap my baby into a car seat and drive to her office. Of course we think nothing of taking our kids to the doctor, but that inherently carries SO much more risk than letting them climb a tree.
Ah…. your kids are great. It’s funny, my son was very slow to establish independence, and I feel like my daughter has been pushing me away since she was two! Here’s a scene from not long ago, the summer before my son left for college:
Son: Mom, would you get me a glass of water?
Me: Um… could you possibly get it yourself?
Son: I could. But I’ll be gone in a couple weeks. You don’t have that many more opportunities to get me a glass of water before I leave for college…
Me: (Running to the kitchen for the water).
We were pretty ridiculous- but I can report that he’s doing absolutely fine on his own, living in an apartment this year and cooking his own meals. Maybe I babied him a little too much, but it didn’t end up hurting him in the end.
Personalities make SUCH a difference.
Also, I love how your son said “I could…”I can just imagine the tone of his voice while saying this. And then you running to the kitchen. I pictured the whole scene in my mind and it was both lovely and hilarious.
Love it, Jenny. Maybe we should get ready to pitch our scripts to Warner Brothers?
And it’s wonderful he’s thriving – water waitress or not. Go Baylor!!
Oh my these vignettes made my heart burst! You are raising such good humans!
Two of my three are still in car seats, though the oldest now rides in the front seat. The other day, I took her on an errand and she yells, “I call shotgun!” It made me laugh because she is literally the only one who can sit shotgun with me, yet she had so much pleasure in yelling it out.
Our three year old is so very independent, even more so than the five year old. I know it’s our job to launch them into the world, but when she she shoos me out of the room so she can get dressed “by my own!”, I feel a teary eyed mix of pride and wistfulness.
“They have their moments” – this is always my response when someone tells me the kids are great. (They are wonderful humans, but my parenting is very hit-and-miss so I think sometimes good traits come along more “by good luck than good management” as my grandmother would say.)
I don’t think my kids even know what shotgun means.
You’re so right – pride and wistfulness is bang on.
AWW! This is adorable. I sometimes feel like our kids are not independent enough, and sometimes I feel we are doing okay. I think in our case, there are some situations where we see some “learned helplessness” out of them. As in, because I WFH and am home in the mornings, they don’t NEED to be fully responsible for making breakfast, or always packing lunch, etc. So, they can be happy to sit back and let mom do things. And then on my side, I feel funny just like… sitting there, if I’m home! Does that make sense? I think I sometimes step in just because I can- which is not necessarily wrong, but maybe removes a few opportunities for them to take over. When I was a kid, my mom had to get off to school (a teacher) herself, so she never was standing in the kitchen making breakfast for us or anything like that. It just wasn’t possible. I do think there is something to be said for like, “sink or swim” type situations- e.g. either you make your own dinner or you don’t eat! I think this also a bit of a personality thing, too- some kids get more excited by the prospect of being more independent, and some are just…. a bit more lazy! lol!
I’ve read your posts – your kids sound like they’re doing great! A job! School trips! They seem extremely independent, but also very happy to be together with the family which sounds like the best of both worlds.
I’ve been thinking more about my family growing up and while there was a lot of emphasis on independence, I NEVER did my laundry and rarely cooked when I was home. I never saw that as a lack of independence at the time, but it was just how our family structure was organized (my Mom cooked, my Dad did most of the laundry). So while I considered us all very independent, there were some things that would signal “independence” to other – like laundry and cooking – that I didn’t do a lot of.
I guess for me I want the kids to be able to do just about anything (cook, clean, laundry etc). But then I’ll often do those things for them anyway, because that’s part of the joy of being a kid (having things done for you)!
So maybe, to me, independence has more to do with a mindset and abilities vs. actually having to put everything into practice all the time? That said, I am planning to give Abby a laundry basket of her own on her birthday and have her start doing her own laundry!!
this is so nice. I also feel like a third person when these scenes happen in my house. the last one was when I was preparing to put Lizzy to sleep in my bed as she was sick, I went out to check Sofia how she was doing as I felt like neglecting her a bit as I took care of the sick kid. She told me: don’t worry about me. hope you have a good night sleep.
i feel happy and sad at the same time when those moments come.
Aww. I 100% understand what you mean about feeling both sad and happy in a moment like that. Your girls seem very independent from what I read on your blog, but in a very settled way! Not a forced independence, but just being willing to try new things and you’re there to support them in their learning experiences.
I do remember almost getting lost the first day of 7th grade when I started at a new school. A friend of my parents who worked in the city gave me a ride and let me out a corner. I practiced the way with my parents beforehand but I took a wrong turn and stood in front of the wrong school. I figured it out in the end but that was a rough start that day – no phone to call or map to check in the 80s.
Your kids sound great! Mine are definitely out of the five point harness. My 8th grader is very independent and rides her bike to school, makes her school lunch herself, she even flew to Germany by herself when she was 7 (as to her request). I am so proud of her. Her younger brother is getting there. I can see him taking a little longer to get to the same level of independence but to some extend I enjoy it. Her will get there I am convinced and that way I can take care of my baby a while longer (he would probably horrified to read this).
Yikes. That sounds terrifying.
My kids request to make their lunchboxes but I’ve found it easier to do it myself at this point…but that’s part of the thing about kids gaining independence. Sometimes it takes more effort/worry to have them do things alone, which might be the very sign it’s time to give them more responsibility?
I also think it’s interesting how in different families/with different personalities what things we choose to be independent about vary. Abby has to empty the dishwasher each day, but I don’t make her prepare or clean our her lunchbox. It’s a bit arbitrary, I think, what skills/items I encourage independence on and what areas I hold more control over…
I do think the youngest child does seem to take longer to grow up (in a good way). Abby immediately felt like a giant to me when we brought Levi home from the hospital, but since he’s the “baby” he just always seems so young/small to me – if we’d had a third child, I know Levi would seem huge and grown-up. But I do treasure an hints of baby-ness (like the dinosaur pjs!)
This is beautifully written and very fun to read along. And that egg-tortilla wrap things is now something I want to try. I’ve even git all ingredients at hand. Maybe tonights dinner.
I can’t remember a certain situation about independence really. Well probably a milestone was. the move to the states for a year at age 17. That was a whole new level of independence and I realized not all decisions I can make myself will be as I figured I would without parents.
We LOVE egg wraps and they are a filling, delicious, quick staple in our household. We’ll also eat them for any meal – breakfast, lunch, or supper – which makes them even more versatile.
Wow – moving to a new country at 17 is a HUGE step!!
This is so heartwarming. Props to “Son” making his own wraps – major life skills right there!
It’s amazing now having children who have surpassed me in certain skills (Nellie is better at piano, Abby is better at math). Abby has a job now, for Pete’s sake! What is this world coming to?
Ha! “Son” is getting quite proficient with a skillet.
I know – the audacity of our kids growing up. Though the job thing has potential…we’ll be there before we know it.
Wait, this is your family? I thought it was a book or just some random thoughts. I remember doing laundry when I was about 9 or 10.
Yup – this is our family! All recent activities with the kids where they’re spreading their wings…
I need you to write a book. This was so well-written, Elisabeth, and even made me a little teary, even though I don’t have kids. But I am sure these little moments of independence feel so bittersweet!
Ha! Well, we’ll see about a book eventually, maybe. I’m glad you liked it 🙂
Life just feels bittersweet all the time with kids, I think?!
Oh, my – this was so tough to read in some ways, particularly knowing how much you love the picture book and snuggling phases. Thinking of you as these transitions come fast and furious (it seems, at least) and as you accommodate new ways of doing things in your family. Even good things can be hard to integrate into every day life when every day life has been constant and consistent and (periodically) even boring, in some ways. That said, I am so, so impressed that these are the small humans you created and are raising and teaching in how to live a life.
I remember the first time we were allowed to cross the (very busy) street at the end of our driveway. We (my brother, 1 year older, and me) were going to the bookstore that was literally down the road. Bookland. I loved Bookland. Ah, memories. Anyway! He’d go for the comics, and I’d go to find new books, of course. 🙂 Eventually, we were alone in the house after school (middle school-ish), and were even allowed to use the microwave! (We made “nachos” with, honest to Pete, tortilla chips and (take a breath) Cheeze Whiz. The Fakest Chee(z)e in the history of cheese. HA! Thanks for the memories. <3
The changes do seem to be coming quickly!
Cheez Whiz takes me back. Do you know it’s grey before they add the colouring?!