I have thought a lot about independence and my children lately. When I should encourage them to do things for themselves, when I do something with them (as if to teach,) and what I do for them.
At three, Captain Bravo is intent on doing things for himself. He concentrates (so very intently!) as he tries every morning to put on his socks, his boots or sneakers. He wants to open his own packages. He wants to pour his own crackers in the bowl. He wants to pour his own water from the pitcher. (Eek!)
“I want to do it! I want to do it!” he’ll insist.
He does not want my steadying hand on the cup or the bowl, or my little suggestions on how to he should grasp the wrapper. He wants complete autonomy.
Yesterday, after working on it for the past couple of weeks – and resisting my advice – he put his jacket on all by himself.
“Is this OK?” he asked, looking at me with the expression that was the perfect mix of modesty and pride.
I gasped. “You did it! I am so happy for you. You have been working so hard on that!”
He smiled as I gathered him close to hug him.
“I knew I could do it.”
He said the words so quietly that had he not been right next to my ear, I might have missed it.
“I knew you could, too,” I agreed.
Captain Alpha watched the exchange carefully and patted Captain Bravo on the back.
“Are you going to cry?” he asked, looking into my eyes.
(He knows me so well, friends.)
You see, I am the mother that he finds wiping tears as I unpack his old clothes from storage. I picture him wearing them (wasn’t that only yesterday?) as I prepare to wash them and place them in Bravo’s drawers.
I am the mother that cries during practically every movie we watch.
I am the mother that cries the first day of school every year so far.
I am the mother that lets go, knowing she has to – there is no other choice – but cannot help the tears that fall as she does so.
They are tears of happiness; they are growing and happy and safe and healthy.
They are tears of pride; they are smart and loving and curious and adventurous.
They are tears of confusion; where is the time going?
They are tears of sadness and loss for another little piece of the babies they used to be.
There is one less thing I need to help Captain Bravo with tomorrow – he will want to do it all. All by himself.
I will watch and support – if wanted.
I will cheer and hug.
I will remember; and if I happen to shed a tear or two as I do, no one will fault me for that, right?
How do you balance the ‘doing for’ your children with the encouraging them to ‘do for themselves’? And do have mixed emotions about watching them grow more and more independent, too?Tell me about it in the comments.