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Independence Day

There’s an article circulating the internet about one Mom’s version of Independence Day: a few times a year, her family has a day where EVERYONE does EVERYTHING for him or herself.

This is very attractive to me.

This mom started her tradition – now something they do a few times a year, for several years and counting – when she realized that all the ways she serves her children may also be holding them back from natural independence. Shoe tying, water fetching, late-homework-bringing, all the things we do because we want our kids to have a good life, can sometimes be what keeps them from figuring stuff out for themselves.

So this family spends one day with the kids making all the decisions – and all the work that goes with them. The kids eat when they want, what they want, watch as much television as they want – whatever they want! But they have to cook for themselves, and clean up after themselves, and get their own drinks, etc. And while this sounds like something best done with older kids, the author’s children were 4 and6 the first time she did it.

I floated the idea to Maddie and Cora and they were immediately enthusiastic about it.

“If I have to fix my own breakfast, I’ll just go to Panera and get a bagel!” Maddie said.

“How will you get there?” I asked.

“An adult will drive me,” she replied confidently.

“Nope – you have to do everything yourself,” I answered.

“Well, then, I’d ride my bike there!” Maddie problem-solved triumphantly. And this is fine- we’ve ridden that far on bikes before. So we discussed how, on said Independence Day, the girls would be autonomous at home but need an adult to accompany them if they leave our property.

Breakfast solved – a bike ride away, and Maddie promised to bring back a bagel for her sister.

“And while I’m there, Cora, I’ll run to the grocery store and get us those giant candy bars!” Maddie shrieked.

“How will you pay for the giant candy bars?” I asked.


“I suppose I could use my allowance,” Maddie said slowly.

I agreed that would be the best plan. “So I guess you’ll start saving your cash now, huh?” I asked, “In anticipation of a family Independence Day?” And Cora agreed to help – they’ll both save five dollars towards ‘supplies’.

Lunch wasn’t an issue, as they’ve been making their own yogurts and sandwiches, but dinner threatened to stump them.

“Easy!” Cora declared at first. “I know how to make macaroni and cheese!”

“That’s true,” I agreed, “and that’s fine – you’ll just need to clean up afterwards, too.”

Cora stared. “You mean SCRUB the POT???” When I said that yes, that’s exactly what I meant, she moaned, “I don’t know HOW to scrub the pot! And I suppose we’ll have to wash our plates, TOO!”

Maddie patted Cora on the shoulder. “Don’t worry, Cora, if it’s Independence Day and we can do whatever we want, we won’t use plates – we’ll just eat it right over the pot, and then we can bring the pot in the bathtub with us.”

My child is a great out-of-the-box thinker.

So it seems my two girls are on board for this social experiment. I’ve told them the rules: Whatever they want to do (without breaking normal family rules on privacy, etc.), whenever they want to do it, but they have to do it all themselves and clean up completely. I also warned that no adult would get into the middle of any fights over which movie to watch or who had which toy, which both girls airily brushed aside.

Unlimited junk food and television – not at ALL a recipe for squabbles, right?

We haven’t set a date yet, but you better believe that I’m looking forward to this day. I’ll be video-taping, too – saving proof that they actually CAN clean up after themselves without being told.


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