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I think as parents it’s hard sometimes for us to determine when our kids are old enough to make their beds, tie their shoes, clean their rooms, etc. I’ve seen a lot of kids unleashed on the world not knowing how to make a budget, shop for groceries, do their laundry. I’ve also seen kids in Elementary School that don’t seem to be able to do much either.

Nathan’s best friend Kyle came over to play with him and Cameron. The boys took cans of soda in the dining room and started to build a master planned maze of highways for their cars on the table. I believe they were about eight years old.

The highways were coming along nicely when Kyle spilled his soda on the table. No problem I said-just go into the kitchen, get a paper towel, and clean it up. He stared at me quizzically. “What?” I repeated my directions: go into the kitchen, get a paper towel, and clean up your mess. Kyle just shrugged his shoulders and kept playing. “I don’t know how to do that.” Oh no kid-you’re not getting out of this one!

I walked over to him and said, “This is a wonderful opportunity to learn how to do that! Come with me!” Kyle sighed, rolled his eyes, and followed me into the kitchen. Nathan just watched and smiled-I’m sure he knew how this was going to go down. “Here, get three paper towels” I said, making sure I was very specific. What eight year old doesn’t know how to clean up a mess? Was he just messing with me? I was going to have a very serious talk with his mother. Kyle got three paper towels and followed me out of the kitchen into the dining room.

I demonstrated how to clean up the spill by taking the paper towels and wiping the air above the soda. “You’re seriously going to make me do this?” Kyle asked. “Yes sweetie, I’m seriously going to make you do this. You’re are too old to have your mother cleaning up your messes.” “But Miss Jann-she really doesn’t mind! She tells me that all the time.” Oh my goodness, I thought. I just have no words.

Kyle dabbed at the spill, but his heart clearly wasn’t in it. I didn’t relent-I stood there and forced him to wipe up the entire spill and put the dirty towels in the trash can. Nathan could not stop smiling-why is it kids enjoy watching other kids get into trouble like that? The kids continued to play and I can definitely say Kyle did not spill any more soda. His mother rang the doorbell promptly at the appointed time.

After I assured her that Kyle was most respectful and obedient I commented, “I do have to ask you one thing though. When Kyle spilled his soda, he said he didn’t know how to clean up the mess. He said you always do it for him.” She laughed and said, “Oh yes that’s true!” I said, “Well, it’s just that I don’t understand why he’s eight years old and he doesn’t know how to wipe up spilled soda.” She laughed nervously, sensing my disapproval. “It’s just that he doesn’t do a very good job so I find it easier if I just take care of it.” I let the matter drop, but when they left I took this opportunity to discuss all this with my kids. I was very proud of them boys-they both agreed that an eight year old should definitely know how to take some paper towels and clean up spilled soda, and they were glad that they were learning how to be independent and take care of themselves.

Kyle’s family moved away and we all lost touch. I have often wondered what became of him, and whether he was one of those kids who left home not quite prepared for life. I also wondered if he ever did leave home, or if his mom is still cleaning up his spilled soda at twenty-three years old.

Please comment and let me know your thoughts on this post. Let me know how independent your children are.

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