I've read a number of things lately, and been given advice, that's basically goes like this: if you do things for your kids, rather than making them do it themselves, you'll ruin them.
"You have to make them be independent."
"You have to make them do for themselves."
"You can't let them depend on you."
Otherwise they'll just end up being lazy, helpless, dependent on others, unable to do for themselves.
I think this is all a bit of alarmist exaggeration.
As with most things parenting, I believe the right solution is somewhere in between.
Some of my fondest and warmest memories from childhood come out of my mother doing little things for me. Things she didn't have to do. Things I could have done for myself. But little things done for me were sometimes her small way of telling me how much she loved me. And it's those warm memories that stick in my head so much more than a lot of others. They are not even memories of specific events or actions, but a memory of an overall warmth and feeling loved, just from knowing that some days my mom was going to do things for me, just because she loved me.
I believe very strongly in teaching kids how to be independent. Very strongly. I think we're doing a pretty darn good job of teaching them that. My children all know how to make their beds, and put on their shoes and coats, and set the table, and empty the dishwasher, and clear their plates, and help with the laundry, and clean up their toys, and put their clothes away. They know how to do all of that and lots of other things. And when I tell them to do it, they mostly do without complaint. Sometimes they even do them without me telling them to. These are four and seven year olds we're talking about, so I think we're doing OK.
But no, I don't always make them do all of that. Sometimes I don't make them do any of it.
So much is expected of kids today. I see and hear things all the time about how people think too much is expected of them. We're making them learn to read and be disciplined students too early, we're making them sit still too much, we're giving them homework too early, we're filling their little lives with too many scheduled activities. (note: I agree with some of this, and I do not agree with some of it, but that's all for another post.)
So, after your very full six hour day at school, if coming home to your bed all tidy and your favorite stuffed animals arranged just right makes you feel a little warm and fuzzy, then you better bet I'm going to do it for you occasionally. And if opening your drawer and finding all your favorite clothes washed and folded and right there waiting for you helps get your school day off to a little bit of an easier start, then yes, I'll do that for you. And if "helping" you put your socks on makes you feel like you're getting just a little extra attention from mom, then I'll sometimes do that too.
And I won't apologize to anybody for it.
Life is hard enough. I see nothing wrong with sometimes trying to make my kids day just a little easier for them. Somebody did that for me, and I turned out pretty darn good.
My children are helpful and polite and cooperative. They all get rave reviews from their teachers and from any other adults that spend time with them. So I know we're doing it right. I feel comfortable that we're finding the right balance of teaching them to do for themselves, but also showing, with little gestures, just how much they are loved.
They are loved. And they deserve to know it. Not just by our words, but by our actions too.