Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Alarm Clocks and Independence

Since the departure of five of our children---off to college---the logistics in our home have changed dramatically.  Most recently, we are re-decorating the three upstairs bedrooms for the three remaining occupants of the land of Bateman.  This means my house is messy and dusty, I have paint of various shades in places paint was NEVER meant to be, and I'm EXHAUSTED!  It is in this condition that my story for the day begins.

It was 4 am---yes, I said FOUR A.M.  I'd been up until a little after midnight the night before because I was helping paint in my daughter's room.  I should have had my eyes tightly closed and been sitting on a relaxing beach in dreamland.  But I wasn't in dreamland because my daughter's cell phone alarm was going off in the room adjacent to my bedroom.  Did I mention it was FOUR A.M.?  I finally awakened enough to realize I had to find the darned thing and turn it off myself because no one else was even stirring.  They were obviously able to sleep right through that annoying sound, but I was not.  I finally located the sound in the bottom of a school bag under a table (those of you on the program would be proud:).  I was completely annoyed by this time and really considered finding the closest hammer to permanently end the interruption of my much-needed sleep.  I mean I REALLY wanted to destroy that phone---and then wake up my daughter (the operator of the offending phone) with LOTS of really annoying sounds.  I restrained myself and went back to bed.

When I awoke at 5:45 (my usually time), I was calmer.  However, I was determined to take her cell phone away from her for a week and tell her I would be determining what time alarms would go off---not her.  Then I had a shower, some breakfast, some scripture time and decided I was wrong.  It is VERY tempting to slam shut the door when things are not going well.  However, do I want my daughter to someday be able to set an alarm, go to sleep and awaken on time without my help?  Why, yes, I do!  Does my daughter need less practice with alarms or more practice with alarms? She obviously needs more, and maybe a lot more.  Does this mean I may have future interaction with other cell phone alarms at ridiculous times of the morning? Yes! Is it worth it if I can send my daughter off to college independently in three years? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes!

When our children struggle with particular tasks and skills, it is very tempting to say that they can't do it, and remove the task.  Perhaps we even do the task for them. (I type with chagrin since I've done that thousands of times over the course of my 27 years as a mom.)  I already obviously know how to set an alarm and turn it off, but do I know how to teach it? Obviously I need some practice. :/

This isn't limited to alarm clocks and cell phones.  We really need to look at where our children are and what the next steps to their independence should be.  Perhaps they need to practice putting away laundry, or maybe they are ready to learn how to do their own laundry.  Maybe they can help learn to set the table or maybe they are ready to prepare a meal.  What is the next step for them? 

Once we have determined their next step, we need to give opportunities for intentional practice.  I am having my daughter set alarms many times throughout the day/evening.  She is conditioning her brain to hear and respond to the alarm.  She is setting the alarm for all kinds of things---her favorite tv show, dinner time, how long to brush her teeth, how long to work on a project, etc.  She is completely annoyed by the whole thing and has done her fair share of eye rolling and sighing.  That's okay because she is learning and that is the point.  We will keep "practicing" with the alarm until she is completely successful. 

And then we'll choose something else.  Because she is only 15 and she still has a lot to learn.  And I still have a lot to teach her before I feel confident in her independence.  It won't happen by accident.  And no one else but her mother cares enough to give her this information and develop her skills.  Gotta go---the alarm just went off and it's time for our favorite show. ;^)