Family life

Are your kids independent enough?

Anna's first all-day camp showed Tracy that she's doing way too much for her six-year-old.

By Tracy Chappell
Are your kids independent enough?

Anna just completed her first-ever full-day camp stint — two weeks of games, crafts and swimming at the YMCA. She was really enthusiastic about camp from day one and came home every day with a smile on her face, like she’d been doing it forever.
But she hadn’t been doing it forever, a fact that sort of hit me the week before she started. Anna had only been in half-day kindergarten this past year, and spent the other half of the days that I worked at preschool. Earlier in the summer, she did a half-day gymnastics camp. Suddenly, I realized that Anna would be away from me and sort of on her own all day every day for the first time, with just a teenaged camp counselor to look after her.
I knew that mentally, Anna was ready and willing. But what about all the logistics? For the first time, I had to pack a big cooler bag with two snacks and lunch. What if she ate everything at snack time and was starving by pick-up? What if she had trouble changing out of her wet bathing suit and back into her clothes? What if she didn’t get along with the other kids and the counselor didn’t know how to help? And, my biggest concern for my very fair, sensitive-to-the-sun daughter: What if they just left her to apply her own sunscreen and she got a sunburn?
I know, I know. You’re saying, “Tracy, your daughter is six!” And you’re right. This camp experience reminded me of how much I still do for her that I probably shouldn’t — because it’s easier, because it’s faster, because I’m already doing it for Avery, because (in the case of the sunscreen) I know it will be done properly.
So the weekend before, we did a crash course in managing her camp day, sifting through all my concerns and her questions. You know what? She did just fine with her own sunscreen application, wanted to make sure I remembered a plastic bag for her wet stuff, and assured me she’d talk to her counselor if she was having any trouble.
Yes, my girl is growing up. And I need to help her — to make sure her skills are growing up along with her attitude — instead of holding her back by doing too much. Camp has been good practise for Grade One, which begins in just three short weeks (gulp). And she sailed through like a rock star. She managed everything just fine, earned a swim level (wow!) and took great care to pace out her food (in fact, she discussed her eating decisions in great detail with me almost every day on the way home).
Now to teach her to tie her shoes!
Do you feel that your child does enough for him or herself? What personal and household responsibilities is your six-year-old responsible for?

This article was originally published on Aug 13, 2012

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