On Carrying Their Backpacks {Lessons in Motherhood}

I suppose I’d like to think that I was a mom who stepped away from helicoptering.  A mom who calmly asked her son, “where do you think your foot should go?” upon noticing his trepidation at the top of the jungle gym.  Hoping to never rob my kids of the opportunity to learn from risk-taking.  Aiming never to meddle with those budding inner compasses – leading to the profound sense of earned accomplishment in mastering something alone.

I’d like to think that I was a mom who was working on raising up motivated, resilient, self-reliant little people.

teaching kids to be resilient

In motherhood, it is incredibly difficult to see our children struggle without wanting in some way, to make things right. The challenge continues when deciphering when to intervene – and then decided what form of life-raft to send along the way.  But this precious life can not be presented as a false reality – and I can not run to mend or cushion all of my children’s struggles. As it is often in the mending that we create more problems for our children.

Last year, when playing after school, my little guy was met with a big branch in his eye. I knew immediately – in the way that only a mother can – that he sustained a true injury.  His trembles and cries lasted the entire walk home, and he was carried in my arms the ten blocks or so, while my husband rushed home to drive him to urgent care.  I was incredibly frustrated that day with my first-grader who repeatedly asked me to carry her backpack.  I was already carrying my 34 pound son, his backpack and my bag.  Didn’t she hear his sobs?  Couldn’t she muster the strength to stop complaining?

As I thought about the situation later that evening, I realized that I never even gave my daughter the chance to wear her backpack.  Instead, I instinctually slid the straps off of both of my children’s backs as soon as they came out of school. Carrying the weight of books and lunch boxes for them – I didn’t even give my actions a second thought.

A lot has changed since that day at the playground.  My son’s corneal abrasion healed up nicely, and the kiddos regularly carry their backpacks. Sometimes they’re too heavy and sometimes I assist – but only when asked.  For the most part, the children don’t even notice the monstrosities strapped to their backs on our daily walks home from school.  And as for me?  I’m actively trying to be cognizant of and change the things that I do for my children that they can, and should be, doing for themselves.