I’m your mother, not your valet

I'm Your Mother, Not Your ValetMy child hears this one a lot.  I believe in teaching her to do for herself; as much as possible and as soon as she is able.  I’m not lazy, I’m trying to teach self-reliance, life skills and a good work ethic. This is especially important when we travel.  There are so many things to learn and when we are traveling or getting ready for a trip it all seems FUN!

When my daughter was teeny tiny, we did everything for her of course.  However, since she was about 4, she has been responsible for carrying her own carry-on or managing her own bag in the back seat on a road trip. She could bring whatever toys or games she wanted but it had to fit in the little rolling backpack we got her.  Her clothes fit in a carry-on suitcase with mine and her father and I managed those. As she has gotten older, she has gotten incrementally more responsibility. Just this last fall when she was 9, she packed her own convertible backpack and small purse/entertainment bag and jetted off to Europe with us for a wedding.  Since we all had backpacks and flew carry-on only to Europe for 11 days, we were all REALLY careful about what we brought knowing it would be on our backs through airports and train stations aplenty. I was so impressed by her ability to cull her choices to those she knew she would need and those that she would use often enough to justify carrying.  She was even very careful about her purchases knowing she had to carry them.  She came home with postcards, pictures, a couple of books, bookmarks and candy.  She’s 9, of course there was candy.  She saved her money all year and we converted it to pounds and euros.  She got to spend it on whatever she wanted but if she ran out, that was it. Thus continuing our lessons on budgeting.  She was really careful with her money and even had some left when we came home so she could show her class what it looked like during her presentation.  She made a scrapbook full of the pictures, postcards and her travel journal entries. (Whereas my scrapbook is still in pieces in a bag waiting for this weekend’s crop!)

Since she started reading, my child has been responsible for getting us to our gates for our flights and helping us find exits on road trips. Have we ended up heading down terminals we didn’t need to be in? Sure, but that little girl can now navigate an airport with the best of them, even in French if she has to.  With family all over the country, she will be allowed to fly on her own at some point and I will know she has the skills she needs to get from point A to point B managing her paperwork, money, etc. as she goes.

LondonHeathrowAirport

All this planning and self-reliance has earned her the ability to help plan our trips.  When we went to Florida a couple of years ago, we met Winter the dolphin for Dolphin Tale at her request. When we went to Europe this last fall, she got to choose museums and other locations to visit.

Our adventures encompass everything from science, math and literature to architecture, history and art of all kinds.  There is no major structure, just listening and talking. I always do some research before we go, usually with my child, and for everything else there is Google.

So please, give yourself a break, don’t be your child’s valet at home or on vacation.  Have your kids pack and carry their own bags, manage their own money, lead the charge through airports, do their own laundry, keep their stuff organized. Teach them the difference between credit cards and debit cards, what it takes to earn money, and to manage every day expenses.  Teach them to deal with disappointment when things don’t go their way. Teach them to travel and to see the great big world around us, to enjoy what others have created, to celebrate differences and understand that this place would be really, really boring if everyone was the same. Encourage them collect states and countries along with you. The memories and the stories will last a lifetime.

This is all very easy for me to say, it is how I was raised so I don’t know any differently. My parents made sure we had all the necessary life skills to survive in the world.  They also made sure we saw as much of this great big country as possible and taught us both how to travel and how to it love every minute of it – even if it doesn’t always go as planned.  The missteps and surprises make the best stories anyway.

Airport photo credit:
By Jnpet (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

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