TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS by Ellen Donker
Updated: Mar 15
My kids learn to carry their insurance cards and talk to humans
One of the challenges of raising children is knowing when to let go so they can function on their own. It’s a gradual release as they learn over time to be self-sufficient. Our three children are now almost 20 years old and living apart from us at college. Gone are the days when I laid out their clothes, read them a bedtime story or made sure they brushed their teeth.
I know it can be sad when it seems as though your kids no longer need you. But trust me: This is what you were waiting for. Raising kids is exhausting. That’s why I’ve tried to see each step towards adulthood as a small victory. At this stage of life, our kids are learning how to solve their own problems and tackle the day-to-day tasks that we adults routinely face.
Although it may seem inconsequential, I am feeling liberated by no longer being the one to fill out their forms. Having spent hours on this chore over time whenever our kids started a new school year, registered for camp or signed up for sports, I consider myself an expert on how to access all those annoying details of life. It was, therefore, quite satisfying when Madeline called asking me how to complete a registration form for her study abroad. Although she needed me to talk her through some of the trickier information that was needed, she was the one who had to look up her insurance plan number, find her doctor’s contact information and decide who to appoint as her emergency contact.
Christian has also shown leadership in taking care of his business. But it was often combined with him asking me to produce the information he needed. Even though I had given all three children a copy of their insurance cards, suggesting they carry it in their wallets for a host of reasons, they didn’t understand why. When Christian asked me for the sixth time to email him a scan of his insurance card, he finally realized it was time for him to store important information for himself.
Equally satisfying has been getting the kids to make their own doctor and dentist appointments. This is especially challenging because it requires making a phone call using the very piece of technology that they can’t live without. In the fall, Tim needed to see a dentist for a toothache while at school in Charleston. Not only did he have to locate a good dentist (he consulted with his track coach), but he had to make the appointment, get himself there and fill out insurance forms. I gave him an A+ for doing so and I think he felt like he had achieved a milestone.
Madeline isn’t quite on board with this, wishing that she had a personal assistant, or better yet, an app to arrange her appointments. She insists it’s weird to have to use the phone. Somehow saying, “Hi, I’d like to make an appointment” could possibly get you laughed out of town unless I’m the one making the call for her.
And then there’s “Customer Service.” I’m the first one to try to take care of business online or on a chat rather than navigating phone prompts to secure a live agent. But sometimes you just need to talk to a human.
Recently, Madeline asked for a new iPhone. Since she couldn’t get the color she wanted at the store and needed the phone shipped to our home during her very short college break, I suggested she call Verizon. Instead she ordered it online. Long story short, the order got botched and this time Madeline had to have some very long conversations with Verizon…several times. I have found that when you dangle before your offspring the promise of a new iPhone, he or she will manage to get over their fear of calling. And the bonus? Verizon waived an activation fee – something you can’t ask an app to do.
It’s been 20 years of baby steps but I’m starting to see our kids as adults. Almost. After all, they’re still on the family payroll. As self-sufficient as they may be, I believe they will always need their mom. And for me that will always be a privilege.