Family life

4 ways I baby my perfectly capable school-aged kids

So much for that free-range parenting thing, writes Jennifer Pinarski.

Jennifer still makes Isaac and Gillian's school lunches. Photo: Jen Pinarski

Jennifer still makes Isaac and Gillian’s school lunches. Photo: Jennifer Pinarski

With kids who are eight and five years old, I often feel like I’m in the honeymoon stage of parenting. Isaac and Gillian are both in school full-time, go to the bathroom alone and even started sleeping through the night recently. On mornings when they wake up earlier than me, they prepare their own breakfasts and dress themselves. And, because of my free-range parenting tendencies, both kids play independently very well, often spending hours outdoors on their own.

While I certainly don’t miss the baby days (and recognize that this stage might be the calm before the storm that is puberty), there are some habits I just can’t shake. I’ve never been a helicopter parent, but here are four ways that I’m probably ruining my free-range credibility by babying my perfectly capable school-aged kids.

1. I still pack their lunches
I have a confession: I like making my kids’ school lunches. And it’s not just so that I can break out the cookie cutters and make cute bento-box lunches (see photo above); I know that if I’m the one in charge of putting grapes and chicken into those tiny silicone muffin cups, my kids will eat better during the day.

2. I bring forgotten mittens (and water bottles and glasses) to school
In my ongoing battle to get my kids to wear seasonally appropriate clothing, there have been mornings where both Isaac and Gillian leave the house in sweaters that aren’t quite warm enough or without their toques and mittens. Sure, I could turn their frozen fingers and ears into a teachable moment, but I’d rather drive to school and tuck the rejected outerwear into their cubbies. Will it teach them to remember their mittens? Probably not. But it does show them I care.

3. I carry them when they’re tired
I’ve lost count of the number of times our family has been in the middle of a hiking trip when one kid claims to be too tired to take another step. When this happens, I give in and carry them every single time they ask. But instead of calling it “carrying,” my kids tell me that I’m giving them an “uppy-hug”—and any extra chance I have to cuddle with my kids is one I’ll take.

4. I still tuck them into bed at night
It was a habit we started when we brought Isaac home as a newborn: reading or singing to him until he dozed off. When Gillian was a baby, we co-slept for almost three years before moving her into her own toddler bed (while my husband tucked our son in). Our bedtime routines are far from flawless, but once I’m settled into bed with my kids, I love the extra time we spend talking quietly.

Just like carrying them when they’re tired, there will be a time when Isaac and Gillian will want their own space at bedtime. Until then, I’ll keep on babying them.

Follow along as Jennifer Pinarski shares her experiences of giving up her big-city job and lifestyle to live in rural Ontario with her husband while staying home to raise their two young children. Read more Run-at-home mom posts or follow her@JenPinarski.Read more:
I never meant to become a bento-box mom>

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