“Home Alone” Lessons on Independence
We had a family movie night last night. After we got the kids in their jammies, we all sat down on the couch and searched through what was available on our cable network, which movies were free, and which ones were kid appropriate.
“How about ‘Ice Age?'”
“No, we’ve seen that a million times.”
“Mom, that’s an Allie movie.”
“Can we watch ‘Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows?'” asked the boys. (Things get harder after they learn to read.)
“No, that’s too scary for your sister.”
And on and on it went. Finally, the cursor landed on “Home Alone.”
“The kids can watch ‘Home Alone,’ right?” I asked my husband.
“Yeah, they’d probably get a kick out of that.”
So we turned it on. After exchanging horrified glances with each other during the first ten minutes over multiple uses of “stupid,” “idiot,” “ass,” “jerk,” “shut up,” and other gems that put us into the horrible parenting category, the movie finally caught its stride.
While watching with my husband, 7-year-old, 6-year-old, and 3-year-old (yes, the youngest is 3 watching a PG movie, go ahead and judge me), it soon became apparent that most fascinating part was that the boy who was left home alone was only eight years old.
My kids watched an 8-year-old walk to the store by himself, make his own dinner, wash his own laundry, shower, comb his own hair, get dressed in layers, jacket, hat and gloves, chop down and decorate his own Christmas tree and say his prayers. All on his own. Oh yeah, and he fought off burglars and set up a bunch of boobie traps, too, but that’s just icing on the cake.
Granted, this was a movie. A work of fiction produced in 1990, I know. But still, many of these things could and should be possible for at least our 7-year-old, if not both of our older boys. So how is it that we seem to be raising a family of helpless, dependent young people?
Don’t get me wrong. My kids are bright and kind and progressing along all of the regular milestones for their age. But it seems like we were all a bit blown away at the normal everyday kinds of things the 8-year-old on screen could accomplish.
Despite my reservations over the language in the beginning of the movie, my kids were not thinking of those choice words or even the least bit scared at the prospect of burglars or even being left home alone. No, at bedtime last night, my boys were talking about microwaving their own dinner and asking how old they would have to be to walk to the store by themselves.
Today, all day long, we heard requests for independent responsibilities. My 7-year-old asked if he could pick up his younger brother from his Sunday School classroom by himself and meet us at the front door after church. He came right home and cleaned up the playroom floor without being reminded (granted, that was punishment for stomping some goldfish crackers on the floor of Target earlier, but still, he did it without a reminder). He poured his own milk, did his own dishes, and put away his own folded clothes.
Tonight, instead of yelling at the top of his lungs for me to help him get out of the shower, he decided he wanted to turn off the water without help, too. (I’m paranoid about our ancient shower with separate unlabeled cold and hot knobs, which is why I usually do this part.) He even managed to do that without scalding himself.
After all is said and done, perhaps exposing them to a bit of questionable content may have its rewards. If I relax the Mother Hover instinct a bit and allow them a bit more freedom, there’s no telling what they can do.
I don’t want them comfortable enough to set up traps using blowtorches and hot irons, but I really wouldn’t mind a little help with the laundry. And honestly, I wonder if a few BB gun lessons might help keep the deer away from my tulips this spring.