I'm not talking about the nasty parts of the school social scene which we are all grateful to avoid. I mean the part where they get to be responsible for themselves and their own choices. One of the benefits that kids in school have over ours is that they learn to speak up for themselves. A child in school has to interact with teachers, the school librarian, coaches, the lunch ladies, etc. He has to speak to authority clearly and be able to articulate his wants and needs to adults who are not members of his own family. If he wants to play a sport, he puts his own name on the sign up sheet. If his homework isn’t turned in on time, he’s got to face the music by himself. If he doesn’t want the gross green beans for lunch, he has to say so himself.
Our kids don't get the chance to do these kinds of things very often. If you're a mom who likes to be in control of what's going on (like me!), it's almost alwayseasier and faster for me to just take charge and run with it. I used to be the person who reserved their library books, called coaches for practice times, and talked to the waitresses in restaurants. Most of the time, I even told the little ones what they were going to eat.
It took the snarky comment of a soccer coach who quipped that only my daughter needed her mommy in order to be able to have a conversation, to stop my over-helping in its tracks. It forced me to look around and see that my intervention in every area of their lives was actually hamstringing them. Now I'm singing a completely different tune.
Instead of being the girl always in charge, I let the kids step forward whenever it's appropriate and possible. I let the littles pick what they want to eat on the rare occasion we are at a sit-down restaurant, and tell it to the waitress themselves. It's hard for an active 6 year old boy to be polite and make himself clearly understood, but food has proven to be a good motivator. If they want to play sports, it is their responsibility to make the phone call to get more information. If there are try-outs or sign-ups, they have to put their own names on the list, make sure it's on the calendar, and find out what kind of equipment is necessary. When we go to the gas station, I hand one of them cash and send them inside to pay. Standing in line, handling money, and clearly stating what we need are all skills they will need as adults.
I have found that the more my children step out in the world and learn to talk to adults with respect and authority, the more confidence and assurance they gain in themselves. Our children need the opportunities to learn to interact in a grown-up world, and the confidence to move easily within it.