May 26, 2021

“See One. Do One. Teach One.”—How I’m Raising Independent Kids.

An idea that I’m really into is raising competent children who can self-adjust to life circumstances well.

Coo at other caregivers. Hop out of the car at kindergarten drop off with a “Bye, Mom!” Go to soccer practice and remember their water bottle all by themselves. Work out conflict with other kids on their own. Pick up after themselves. Write their own essays (but in the name of all that is holy, allow me to edit them). Form their own healthy relationships. Learn from their individual failures. Live their own lives.

Okay, that sounds great. How?

I’m taken back to a particular moment in my own life when the words, “See one. Do One. Teach one,” were bluntly communicated to my naive 22-year-old face in the cardiac care unit of the local county teaching hospital. It was my first week of ICU training.

My mind:

“….But I just saw you draw blood from the catheter line streaming from that patient’s radial artery, a twist of your wrist interacting with a one-inch stopcock determining whether or not they bleed out this very second…can I see it one more time?”

My words:

“…Okay. Watch me, please.”

My mind:

“Also, please pray hard for the soul of this person lying in the bed and for the soul of myself who is liable to run away to Taco Bell at any moment.”

That is how we typically learn in the healthcare setting. We see one; we do one; we teach one. It is an incredibly effective way of becoming competent (and/or highlighting incompetence) in the various skills required to care for other humans.

In nursing school, we could be assigned the burnt-out nurse who rolls her eyes at the site of your starched, white, zip-up nursing school clown suit (and who can blame her) nervously walking her way. That nurse’s tactic is to not involve you in the process at all, hence removing all interest and motivation from the student and subsequently making her day much easier. I had never felt so bored, unmotivated, uninvolved, or incompetent when that happened.

On the occasions I was assigned a nurse who handed me the reigns, or my own small patient assignment, I perked up! I took ownership, remained sharp, tested my thought processes, gained confidence. Screwed up. Mis-charted. Fixed it. Learned.

Now, I’m a mother to two young boys. A caboose baby on the way. My oldest wants to name them Skywalker or Emma. The younger brother likes the name, “No!!!!!”

I tend to Enneagram 1 all over my parenting, overthinking decisions and criticizing my various moves after the fact. But, I’ve decided I’m going to work really hard not to burden these kids with my critiques. I’m going to work really hard at letting them figure it out.

By the Way, The Gift of Failure: How the Best Parents Learn to Let Go So Their Children Can Succeed by Jessica Lahey is a great read on this particular topic.

One of the many character traits I want my boys to develop is independence in thinking and confidence in doing.

But howwwwww because I would like to control all things. This doesn’t make me totally crazy, just honest. I’m pretty sure that I know what’s best for most of us. Also, the best way to do things. And the best way to plan our day and when to leave and what to wear and why does everyone else think they have a say?

Insert scene: I’m 30 weeks pregnant and nesting mode has been implemented. I want to transition our youngest son into sharing a room with our oldest before the baby comes because I have decided (after consulting multiple parenting and psychological podcasts and books), this is the best way to transition him.

“You’re not getting kicked out of the nursery because of the baby, son. It’s because you’re ready. Now, go share a bunk with your brother because it is so fun!”

I had bought reasonably priced, comes in 5-10 pieces, storage compartments for the mass of clothes these kids have accumulated in their short lives. These are being consolidated into one bedroom. Accompanying these boxes is a small wrench and two different types of screws.

The morning that I decided, “This must get done, now. Today.” I think the kitchen sink was on the fritz and my husband was playing with the pipes attached to it outside. He had put together one of three of these compartments the evening before. He did one.

Saw one. Check.

I began putting the second one together.

Did one. Check.

My six-year-old had conned us into PlayStation time before then. I bellowed to him to shut it off and join me in the living room because I was pretty sure he would become a better human if I had him build the last set instead of crash cars together in an alternate reality video game.

Teach one.

Internal Coach Mode to Self:

Breatheeeeeeee. Don’t freak out when he holds the wrench wrong! Don’t even think about snatching it from him to show him the “right way”. Offer tips, if he gets frustrated. Don’t take over. But I could do this So. Much. Faster. And then I could watch Friends reruns and eat frozen Costco noodles that I doctored up with sesame oil, chili oil, tamari sauce, salt, and pepper.” (That last detail is a bonus recipe idea for you, dear reader. You’re welcome.)

He does (most of) it! He enlists his little brother to help with the more simplistic tasks of inserting the cloth drawers, twisting the bottom knobs onto the frames, turning the compartments upright. He stands proudly next to it as I snap a picture and slap him a high five. His face. Oh, that face. Pride of doing, of contributing. He felt needed, involved in the process.

Watching him focus, grunt, and struggle with the wrench, I wanted so desperately to intervene. To fix it for him, do it myself. That’s just not how we learn to do life, guys. That’s not how we learn to cope or navigate our way through the burdens that will inevitably present themselves as the crisis of the moment.

It took me not being a jerk to make it happen. It took a lot of deep breaths and not allowing myself to speak in particular moments. It took self-awareness and consideration for how I wanted him to behave in the future with situations that will have many more compounding consequences than this one.

We will keep going, grunting as required, and paying attention to what feels right.

Team decent humans all the way.


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