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My parents weren’t big on doing things for me. If I showed the least capability of doing something for myself, it was mine forever. Call them the “anti-helicopter” parents. “You know how to make your bed.” Translation: you do it now — every day. “You know how to cook eggs.” Translation: Make your own breakfast — every day. “You know how to get yourself to school.” Translation: You get yourself up and going. Yes, every day. “Here’s an alarm clock for your birthday. You know how to set it.”

And so it went. Of course, at the time, I hated it. As I grew, however, I was grateful. And I inflicted the same approach on my son. He’s 43 now and I haven’t asked him how he feels about this as I watch him and my daughter-in-law raising their own son, who’s five. They do a lot more for him than I did for my son and I suspect that I did more for my son than my parents did for me. The educational strain is weakening.

But not so much as what I see around me. I was on the trail the other day. Women were pushing strollers, some with little kids, understandably, but some with kids who could have walked and some with kids who should have walked. I won’t even go to the people pushing strollers with dogs. We’re helicoptering dogs now?

And there’s tutoring. There are kids in my condo complex who end up at my door because they need homework help, which they apparently can’t get from their parents. That’s fine with me, but the kids come with assumptions.

“Where’s the soda?”
“In the store.”

“Where are the snacks?”
“In the store, but you can have toast.”

I make toast and show them how to use the toaster. Some of these kids are eight and nine.

“It has crusts on it.”
“Yes, you eat them.”

They shake their heads. Nope.
No more toast.

Next time:

“How about toast?” they ask.
“Sure. The bread’s there.” I point. “The toaster’s on the counter.”
“Aren’t you going to make it?”
“I don’t want toast, thanks, but you go ahead.”

They don’t make toast. They grumble through their visit and don’t come back for a longer time than usual. But needs must and they re-appear with a new homework problem.

“Are you making toast today?”
“No thanks, but you can go ahead if you like.”

We do homework.

It takes a while, but they get the idea. Some eschew toast at my house forever. Others eventually make toast for themselves. It’s my favorite lesson.

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