My 8-year-old daughter has been dressing herself since she was 2. As a toddler, she had the whole “blinged-out clown” look on lock. Whenever I felt eyes upon her at the playground or supermarket, I was quick to throw her under the bus: “She picked out her own outfit.” I was not about to be held responsible for how ridiculous (and admittedly, quirky-cute) she looked. But more importantly, her mix-matched fashion sense was a symbol of the independence she craved, and I knew I just had to let it go.

As much as it pains (and embarrasses) me to let my kids forge their own paths, I know these tiny independent wins are essential to their growth. Sometimes, though, their insistence to “do it myself” goes off the rails. The more I let them do themselves, the more it seems I have to clean up afterwards.

The first time they feed themselves is the initiation to this colossally messy and time-consuming practice of guiding kids towards becoming self-sufficient. Yes, it would be so much easier, so much cleaner, if we, as parents, would just do everything for them. But we have to fight that urge. Even if it grosses us out, which it often will.

The fact is, encouraging and supporting our kids as they becoming fully functional, independent humans is more frustrating and maddening than you might think. "You mean I'm going to have to fight with myself not to do things for them?" – pre-kid me, who couldn't fathom a world where doing everything for someone else actually made things easier. But as any parent who's ever seen a toddler work themselves into a full-on meltdown after making the whole family late to leave the house because they had to do the buttons themselves's so real. Here are some stellar moments when letting our kids “be independent” is a total sh*tshow.

Wiping Their Own Butts


For the first six months of practicing this new skill, there was...a lot of laundry. I don't want to talk about it.

Applying Sunblock


To them, it's just finger paint. Finger paint that results in very creative sunburn prints on their bodies.

Setting The Table


Eating their way is like being a contestant on American Ninja Warrior.

Clearing The Table


Thanks for helping…to make even more work for me after you trail sauce into the kitchen and miss the trash completely as your scrape the leftovers from your plate.

Mixing Cake Batter

Courtesy of Liza Wyles

Could be with a wooden spoon or an electric hand mixer. Doesn’t matter. Brown glop everywhere.

Pouring Anything


It’s not the puddles that get me. Those are to be expected. It’s the kids' tendency to unspool an entire roll of paper towels to sop up the mess, and everything is still wet.

Picking Out A Gift

No, your grandfather does not need, nor want, a Big Bang Theory wall calendar.



My kids’ favorite chore is spraying on glass cleaner. Wiping off? Not so much.

Packing Their Own Backpacks

If you are Type A, like me, this may be nearly impossible. You just know she forgot something, and it takes everything you’ve got not to slip that overlooked, overdue library book into her bag. But if I'm always cleaning up her messes, how will she ever learn?

Nail Painting


It’s like someone with glittery blood was massacred in my bathroom when, in fact, it's just my will to live that's died.

Rinsing Off


Ignoring what she can’t see, my daughter manages to rinse off soap and shampoo from everywhere except the top of her head. I hear her shut the water off, so I come in to find her beaming with pride at showering herself, wrapped in a towel, and her hair completely coated with half a bottle of my conditioner.

Calling A Friend


First grade is when my daughter's social life went next level. When her bestie called (from her mom's phone), she disappeared into my bedroom and closed the door for privacy. I respected that, until I realized she didn’t really know how to have a phone conversation, and instead was belting Katy Perry songs into the handset.

Graduating From Velcro To Laces


Because of course we have an extra 20 minutes to put our shoes on in the morning.

Making Mom or Dad Breakfast In Bed

Courtesy of Liza Wyles

It's the thought that counts.