Monday, September 29, 2008

Kids packing

My sister and I were talking about this the other day. My kids pack for themselves when we go away. This time around Noah forgot to bring a jacket. Erin forgot socks. Well, she remembered, but somehow they didn't quite make it into the suitcase. Same thing.

My sister was sure our parents never trusted us to pack. I don't honestly recall, but she may be right. Perhaps we did some of the work ourselves, but my mom probably went over everything to make sure we had done it properly. It's true that my mom and I differ in our Compulsivity Quotients, she down near the max end of the scale, me hanging out down just this side of obliviousness.

I help if my kids want help. This trip, being longer and different in character from our usual monthly Calgary trip, precipitated some questions and resulted in me producing a list of suggestions. Wedding clothes. A couple of short sleeved shirts, 2-3 long sleeved shirts. Undies for a few days. Socks. Swim suits. iPods. Math books. Games. Reading books. I think I forgot to put 'jackets' on the list, assuming that they were common sense. Some of my kids used the lists. Some didn't.

But I didn't check their packing. And so Erin has no socks and Noah froze in Jasper without a jacket. We have no conditioner and no nail file (things that seem to be fairly important to one of us), no sheet music for the J.C Bach viola concerto. Small omissions. We've made do.

I'd like to say that this is part of an over-riding parenting philosophy, that I am giving my kids experience and trust so that they can experience responsibility and make mistakes when the mistakes are small and easily dealt with. I'd like to argue that this sort of responsibility is good for children, that it gives them a sense of freedom and autonomy that help prevent adolescent rebellion and sneaky efforts to grab power from parents and exercise the self-determination they desperately want.

But while I might be able to make that case, I think I'm basically just too lazy. That I'm "just this side of obliviousness" may be closer to the truth.


  1. Growing up, my Mom was very much like you are, Miranda - "just this side of obliviousness." I forgot things along the way, but I made do and I rarely forgot them twice. I got myself to band practices and swim team. I got myself ready for school in the morning. Most people I know are taken aback when I mention this, but I like to think that it served me well, and it certainly didn't seem a hardship at the time.

    I'm a little more middle of the road with my own kids. They pack for themselves (Maddie has been doing this since she was three or four), but they'll often ask me what the forecast is, what they might need to be prepared for - are we going swimming? how many days will we be away? So far so good. We've forgotten the odd thing here and there, but like you said, we make do.

    I'm more inclined to want to pack for them, just to be certain that things aren't forgotten, but I stop myself for the philosophic reasons that you've mentioned.

  2. This cracks me up. This is exactly how we prep for a trip - or any outing. I've on occasion wondered if I wasn't being motherly enough, or if I'm just too darned lazy to be bothered, but I remind myself that when they NEEDED me to be in charge, when they were babies and toddlers, I handled it. Now? They're plenty old enough to know what they need, or ask for help. This has resulted in some interesting situations that have interestingly never been repeated!

    As for my own mom, she definitely oversaw our packing, to the point that as a young adult, I felt the need to call her to talk me through it. There's a legacy that I'm happy not to pass on!

  3. Anonymous9:24 am

    I don't check suitcases. So my daughter subtracted lots of clothes so that two giant beach towels would fit in her small suitcase, for a month away from home. Fortunately there was at least one of each, and we had access to our old washer!


  4. Depends on the trip. I am not laid back enough not to check on wedding attire, jackets or shoes. But as to everyday wear for the older ones, they are on their own. I do get annoyed at running out for a toothbrush or contact lens solution. Somehow, the omissions tend to require action on my part. I guess I check for things that are important to me and may not be to them (do you have a tie and dark socks?). But I agree that for most packing, it is a good way for them to learn how to figure it out.

  5. You can console Noah with our trip to Norway one October when M forgot her anorak - and her oblivious mum didn't think to check that she had it. October + Norway + earliest onset of winter for 20 years = shopping expedition. Perhaps Noah didn't push so hard for a shopping trip as M did!

  6. I have to admit that a lot of my proudly paraded child independence is due entirely to my laziness, either of doing the job myself, or of stopping super-independent DD (2) from doing it herself.

    On the packing thing, my mom packed for us until we were 9 and 7, and then did the checking thing. But she wasn't perfect at packing, so I did get to learn packing lessons anyway. For years I've told people the Cautionary Tale of how she left all the pyjamas, but it didn't stop me forgetting my pj's last time we went away. :)

  7. I often wonder if I'm being laid-back/supportive or just lazy. Hard to know!


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