April 5, 2021

I’ll Keep Doing Things For My Kids They Can Do For Themselves

The other night, my teenager asked me, “I was wondering—and it’s totally fine if you say no—but I was wondering if maybe you could make me those oatmeal pancakes for breakfast tomorrow?”

I could. And I did.

Of course she could have made her own breakfast. She does, in fact, make her own breakfast other mornings when I can’t and don’t.

She didn’t actually need me to make her breakfast that day, but doing it for her smoothed out the edges of a morning that was headed toward rough.

And after I made those pancakes, I also packed her a lunch and threw in a load of her dance laundry.

I did some things for her that she can do for herself.

I made life a little easier for her.

Before anyone reminds me, I know I’m supposed to teach my kids to fend for themselves, to be independent, and, most of all, to not need me (much) anymore. 
According to a lot of articles I see out there in parent media land, I’m not “supposed” to do things for them they can do for themselves.

And I understand. I get it. I even agree, mostly. We have these children to hold them, but we raise them to release them—and we need to equip and prepare them for that releasing.

My teen does fend for herself. She is independent. She rarely needs me anymore. She runs a solid 90% of her own life and does it so well, I joke she should run for president someday. (Hello, First Mother?)

But when she asked if I’d make her those pancakes, I did it, and gladly. And I’ll do it again, as often as possible.

I’ll keep doing things for her she can do for herself. I’ll make her breakfast and pack her lunch and do her laundry. She knows full well how to do these things. She does do these things. But I’ll keep doing them for her a lot of the time while she does so many things I can’t and shouldn’t do for her.

I can’t—and wouldn’t—go to school and navigate the minefield of high school friendships.

I can’t deal with peer pressure and annoying classmates and incomprehensible geometry and public displays of affection and cringe-inducing dress code violations, all before 9 a.m.
I can’t decide what she wants to be when she grows up when the push to already have figured that out AND to have job-shadowed in that area AND to have decided where she'll go to grad school so she can be competitive in that field is coming from almost every direction.

I can’t run after her dreams and do what has to be done to make them a reality.

I can’t practice patience and kindness and self-control when teenage stress, exhaustion, and hormones—so many hormones—are bearing down hard.

I can’t balance 14 hours most weekdays of academics and extracurriculars and relationships with friends and family, all of them requiring dedication and determination.

My teenager is the only one who can do these things that matter now and matter for her future.

But I can make pancakes for her. And so, that morning, I did. Not because she wouldn't, but because I was willing. Not because she couldn't, but because I could. Not because making breakfast is some grand, magnanimous gesture, but because this is how we do family. I do things all the time for my husband that he can do for himself, as he does for me. My own parents still do many things for me that I can do for myself. This isn't a scorecard we're keeping here; it's just love. 

Of course, love wants the best for those it holds dear, and so I want my teenager to be able to take care of herself when I'm not around to do it. That's what's best for her. 

But when the time comes, this child who will always be a little bit my baby won’t be any less ready for life without me on a daily basis just because I made her a few breakfasts or washed a few dance leotards for her.

On the other hand, though, maybe I'll be a little readier for life without her at my kitchen table every morning if I do for her what I can do—even if she can do it for herself—while I still have the chance.

A version of this article first appeared on Your Teen For Parents.


  1. Just so you know, I'm already saving up a bunch of hugs to send you before too long...when you won't have opportunities like this quite as often as you do now. <3

    1. Darling friend, I may very well be able to gladly and grateful accept those in person: Lydia is deep into serious consideration for applying for a teaching job in FL after doing her student teaching here this fall. I'm entirely thrilled for her and somewhat heartbroken for myself. But Lisa hugs and visits would be SUCH a lovely comfort!! I'll keep you posted! And if you happen to hear of any preschool/early el teaching jobs in a good district with an adorable affordable apartment option with a spare room for visiting parents AND dental AND moving expenses AND a cute single guy who loves Jesus in the area AND a church that has an orchestra that needs a clarinetist, let me know. I'll be glad to return from La-La Land to read your message! ;)

  2. Totally agree. And my girls are much older. They navigate life that’s so different than what mine was. And my mom packed my bags for Brazil and parts beyond Bc she wanted to and she was good at it.

    1. Sue, I could not love this--"they navigate life that’s so different than what mine was"--or you more. (But of course I know when I finally meet you in person, I will on that last bit.) xoxo

  3. Sue, I could not love this--"they navigate life that’s so different than what mine was"--or you more. (But of course I know when I finally meet you in person, I will on that last bit.) xoxo


I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to tell me what you really think. Years ago, I explained to my then-two-year-old that my appointment with a counselor was "sort of like going to a doctor who will help me be a better mommy." Without blinking, she replied, "You'd better go every day." All of which is just to say I've spent some time in the school of brutal honesty!