Offloading Your Kids, Early and Often

June 14, 2010 by cloften  
Filed under Family and Parenting

We met my parents at Fergusons restaurant near Marshall for lunch on Saturday.  They then took our girls back to Branson for a few days.  It’s been about 36 hours now and this is when I really start to miss them.  They say they miss me, but water slides and roller coasters tend to make my girls forget that they even have parents.  I digress, as always.   We have done this a lot over the last 12 years, not the meet at Fergusons, but the offloading of kids to grandparents for days of eating bad, partying hard, and sleeping rarely.

Being at Fergusons reminded me of one of the first times that we did this.  Maylee was 2 and Lauren was still internally attached to her mom.  We met my folks there and we had not told Maylee that she was leaving with Mimi and Rowr (my parents).  She had spent the night with them before and been fine, but we didn’t know how she would react to know in advance, so we said nothing.  After lunch (It might have been a late breakfast.  Does that even matter?), we walk outside.  Maylee gets ahead of all of us, opens Mimi’s car, sits in the back middle seat, buckles herself with the lap belt and then doesn’t make eye contact with anyone.  We all start laughing.  She has this look on her face that says, “I don’t know what you think the plans are, but I am going wherever the people in this car are going.”  Lucky for us, that was the plan.

From the time both of our children were little, they have had no anxiety about spending the night or a week with either sets of grandparents, other family friends, going to camp, whatever.  They both are very adventurous and brave.  A summary of your likely reactions :

1) “You evil ogre of a father.  You left your kids with other people over night at age 2?  You should be ashamed”  It’s worse than that.  They were both 15 months when we first did that, as soon as they were no longer externally attached to their mom (We’re all adults here, right?).

2) “I’m so jealous.  I can’t get my spouse to agree to stuff like that.”

3) “You are so lucky.  My kids would never do something like that.”

I have heard all three of those reactions.  People have said, in one form or another, all of that to me.  Here is what I believe–whether or not spending the night away from parents is scary to a kid is almost exclusively a function of the parents’ attitudes.  Little kids think that anything that is new is scary.  Anything that is different is scary.  Anything that is unknown is scary.  It is our job to tell them what is our is not scary. (I have talked about this before, with regard to speaking to adults and roller coasters.  See here.) 

Be honest, it is you that are scared to leave your kids with family for a couple of days.  It is you that gets nervous when you drop your kid off at their class at church.  Right?  “No Cloften, you big judgmental jerk.  You should see how scared they get when I drop them off.”  Of course they do, they are feeding off of you.  You tell them that they are going to have fun, that you love them and walk away.  Then, they have fun and are significantly less anxious the next time.  Hopefully you will be too.

Now I know that even the most confident of kids will go through some separation anxiety.  Some day I will tell you about the time when toddler Lauren literally tore down the walls in her class (It was a make-shift hallroom class made of temporary walls.)  You know what fixed it?  Consistently dropping her off with no drama from us, never going to “check on her” (which translated means, calming my own nervous heart), and lots and lots of Teddy Grahams.

In what I want for my girls, closely behind passionate love for God, respect and kindness, is confidence.  I want my girls to believe that they can go through life, depending on God and believing confidently that they can be and do whatever it is that God has called them to be.  I never want their fear and insecurity to hold them back.

There are some things that are scary.  Snakes–scary.  Dudes in trenchcoats with candy–scary.  Life–not so much.


One Response to “Offloading Your Kids, Early and Often”
  1. Carolyn Loften says:

    We love being the recipient of off-loaded. Thanks for the memories.

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