18 Dec
Posted in: parenting
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Allowing Independence

A conversation in the women’s locker room at our local rec center  yesterday keeps replaying in my head. I wish I could be back there and talk about allowing independence in our children with the other mother who decided to engage me. In hindsight, I know what I want my retort to be. I want to sit down with her and really talk about parenting, mothering, what it all means. I want her to take a step back from her judgements, ones she has so early in her mothering career. I just want to tell her how passing all these judgements on to others will drive you mad. I know. I’ve been there and will again, I’m sure of it. This journey of raising people is much too difficult in and of itself to analyze what others are doing. Be open to the ideas of other parents. There is so much to learn from each other.

My 4-year-old and I had just finished swimming and were getting dressed to head home. I was finished, sitting on a bench and patiently waiting for A to finish buttoning her coat. I could feel someone watching us. I knew the other mother sitting with her small son in our area was staring at A.

buttoning coat -- allowing indepedence

Other mother: “Sweetie, let me button that for you.”
A: “I can do it.”
Me: “Thank you, but she knows how to button her coat.”
Other mother: “She’s just so little. You should do it for her. They grow up so fast.”
Me: “My oldest will be in junior high next year. I know it all goes too fast. The days are long, and the years are short.” (I’m a little bristly at this point and trying to stay nice.)
Other mother: (Said as she walked out of the locker room)  “You should help her and not just wish it all away.”

The tears I’ve shed over how quickly my kids are growing could quench a parched field. I’ve wanted to freeze countless moments in their lives. If only you could stay 1, 3, 6, 8, 11. Each of the years has held something special. If only I could go back to snuggle those small warm toddler bodies, listen to those cute, high-pitched voices saying the silliest things, wipe spaghetti-spattered faces and coax babies into crawling. I watch my 11-year-old make a tackle on the football field and wonder how he can do that when I clearly remember his first steps as if it happened this week. I help my third grader with his multiplication homework and can still feel the smallness of his hand as we practiced writing letters. I watch my 6-year-old make his lunch and see him sitting in his highchair with a bright colored bib around his neck. I sat in the audience at my daughter’s first ballet recital and couldn’t shake the thought that we just brought her home.

I don’t wish they would grow up, but I do want them to grow up. Growing up isn’t about me. It’s about them. I want them to learn new things, accomplish goals, and seize their potential. I want them to have that satisfaction of knowing they can do new things, seemingly difficult things.  I have to allow independence to happen. The end goal is to raise independent, self-sufficient people who will contribute to the world we live in. Slowly, from the second we brought them home, our children have grown more independent.

tie shoes -- allowing independence

It saddens me that I’m needed less and less in the physical sense. No one needs help with clothes. Everyone is capable of getting a snack or or drink. They can meet their most basic of needs in our house by themselves. At times it feels like my role is being downsized, but really it’s just morphing into a different phase of mothering. I have these little people who can hold conversations and really discuss topics. Parts of the world look different to me after discussing them with our oldest boys. I get to enjoy the little personality quirks each of our kiddos have, some qualities I enjoy less, but appreciate what they add to who my children are.

Letting go is the hardest part of parenting for me. The other mom, without knowing, had sliced my Achilles heel. I desperately want to keep them small and close to me, to keep them safe. Allowing independence means to open them up to getting hurt, to failing, to struggling, but it also means giving them the opportunity to rise above, to shine, to succeed, to achieve their potential. Letting go means I have the chance to see my children be what I’ve always known they were capable of becoming. They are smart. They are capable. They are full of potential. I’ll sit on the bench and continue to watch my daughter button her coat, not because I’m wishing anything away, but because I’m gifting her with a chance to grow.

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