How hard is it to close a door?
I am actually asking: how hard is it to close a door? Based on my recent observations, I have concluded this Sisyphean task is beyond the reach of mere mortals. I base this musing on the fact that my children are apparently completely incapable of closing one.
A New Stage
We are at the next frontier of parenting – school age. Now is the time we start the long process of pushing our little birds out of the nest. We begin to legitimately expect children to do things for themselves. It is a slow progression. I think of it like the old story of “how to boil a frog”. (In this analogy, my children are the frogs I am trying to cook alive – just go with it.) My kids are happily swimming around in the pan of refreshing water called “childhood,” mostly unaware that their safe little pan is even on a stove at all. Every day, I turn up the heat a just a little – a smidge really, barely noticeable – by adding a tiny job or responsibility. The children adjust to the new normal temperature, so I turn it up a little more. Eventually, the children are trapped in the rolling boil of adult responsibilities without ever noticing the radical shift. VOILA! I have cooked grown-ups! In the frog story, if you turn up the heat too fast, the frog jumps out. With my kiddos, if you pile on the real-world drudgery too quickly, they realize being an oldster is full of boring hard work, and they go back to refusing to tie their own shoes. Slow and steady, that’s been my approach to getting my kiddos to stand on their own.
We have reached a plateau.
They can dress themselves. They can locate and put on appropriate outdoor gear. They can pack their backpacks and march out of the house standing tall, ready to take on the world and show it who will someday be the boss.
And behind them, the house door will stand open, creaking slightly on its hinges.
I first noticed this quirk of behavior from the driver’s seat of the car, waiting to drive them to school. Ordinarily, the kiddos get themselves ready, and I will go out to the car, knowing me being at the wheel will poke them a bit to pick up the pace. They rush out of the house and jump in the backseat. I sit looking at the open door, drumming my fingers on the steering wheel.
Me: “The door is still open.”
Child A: “What?”
Me: “You left the door open.”
Child B: “What?”
Me: “The door. You need to close it and lock it when you are the last person out.”
Child A: “Really?” (as if this is the first she has ever heard of such a rule and is in fact highly dubious as to its accuracy.)
I am left to insist the last child in the car climb out and go close the door properly. This is always met with eye rolling, sighs and exclamations of unfairness. You see, it is not convenient to get out of the car and return to the house to close a door. In fact, it’s kind of a drag. And therefore I am a loser buzzkill stick-in-the-mud for making a child close the door.
…they still want to be cared for, to know that I am there to help. I am. I always will be. But to be a person in the world you need to carry your own books and close the door behind you.
They're New to This
I know they are new to this.
By this, I mean being a person in a world that is not carefully calibrated to revolve around them and their exclusive needs. After half a decade of spending most of my waking and all of my sleeping time organizing the details of their lives, I am acutely aware how much of the daily work of being a person they still do not do on their own. I still hoist a hefty share of the lifting. But slowly, I let go of the finer points – like always being the last person through the door and always closing it behind them.
It seems to me that this is an important step for them to take.
The closing door is highly symbolic as well as practical. It shows they are ready to step into the next phase of their life, and also that they are responsible enough not to let chipmunks and stray dogs colonize our kitchen.
Yet there seems to be a hang-up when it comes to closing the door. There is something about the mother herding they want to hold on to for a little while longer. This is the same impulse that makes them want to give me their book bags to carry. They may be physically strong enough, but they still want to be cared for, to know that I am there to help. I am. I always will be. But to be a person in the world you need to carry your own books and close the door behind you.
So we will work on it, one door at a time.
Contributing Sister Site and Author
Hailing from Vancouver, Canada, I lived and worked in cities all over the north – but my family found our home in Vermont in 2013. I am the geeky mama of two bright and hilarious girls and the goofball wife of an awfully smart fellow named Matt. We all live in a nifty crooked house at the top of a long driveway, guarded by a very serious cat. These days I keep the homefires burning, but in my non-mom life I hold an MFA in Directing and have spent most of my life making and teaching live theatre. I am passionate about the arts, for both grownups and children. As a good Canadian girl, I enjoy curling and being polite, but I also have a taste for vicious political satire and knitting. In my few spare moments I can be found reading (very well), nordic skiing (very poorly), and lying down on my yoga mat.