One evening last week, while I was at a dinner, I realized my kids were packing for camp that evening. So I texted them a question – did they need to do laundry to pack for camp? They are both camp counselors now. If I try to take care of those details, they immediately tell me they can take care of themselves.
When I arrived home, laundry was running, and they were packing. Other than a good laugh at a dinner party over my hands-off mothering skills, I didn’t think anything of it.
When my kids returned, my daughter told me, “Thanks for never packing me for camp.”
She continued, “Some younger campers had no idea what was in their suitcases or where things were. Their mothers packed them for camp. How will they ever learn how to take care of themselves if Mommy does it for them?”
There are risks in not packing your kids for camp. They might forget to pack shampoo, soap, and a towel, and return from the experience with a greasepit mosh for hair, smelling like a fish or worse. The kid who forgets to pack something one year will probably remember it the next. It’s also a teachable moment – if you forget something, try asking for help.
And the kid who forgets to pack soap and shampoo for camp could one day be the counselor assigned for a “High – Jean” skit to teach younger campers what hygiene is, remind them in a fun way to stay clean, and teach how to ask for help.
Those are the lifetime moments that form character and teach problem solving skills. When I manage a project, I want to work with a team of players who made plenty of mistakes and have learned from them. The person who has survived failure to succeed another day will work harder and more effectively than the coddled soul who never got the room to stumble.
The only way kids can learn from their mistakes is if we back off enough to give them opportunities to make them. And then when they do make them, we teach them strategies so they can learn from mistakes and do better next time.