Letting go…

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I recently read a blog on Babycenter (or maybe it was Circle of Moms) about how parents coddle their children too much. There was, of course, the mountains of comments made by mothers who have to weigh in. Why I still feel compelled to visit these sites is beyond me. It’s like a bad car wreck, you just can’t look away. The arguments seemed to boil down to two ideas: on one side you need to teach your children responsibility and on the other side you should let kids be kids. There were the typical demeaning comments, demonizing the other side, etc. Now I will tell you, I fall firmly on the side of NOT coddling your children for reasons I will share. But I also do not take the stance that if you do you are a bad parent. Every parent and child is different and I am far from having it together, so I feel no need to look down on any parent.
That said, I do feel children need more responsibilities and independence. I am not talking about babies! This is not a cry it out, rock your baby to sleep, co-sleeping discussion. I am talking about when they start walking, talking, and over all interacting with the rest of the family. I am also not talking only about chores. I am talking about all areas of life. It’s not easy to help push our children toward independence, but it is an important part of being a parent. Responsibilities are an important skill, and the earlier you start teaching your kids responsibility, the easier it will be to enforce when they get older.
With these disclaimers let me share with you a story. Sasquatch, who just turned four, loves to go play at the pool. Sir Smiley loves to constantly push her outside her comfort zone. I, as a mother, constantly fret that he is pushing her too hard, that she should just learn at her own pace. Now I know it is possible to push too hard. Sir Smiley and I make a good team because we work together. I keep him from pushing too and and he keeps me from being a pansy. We went to the pool yesterday and Sir Smiley was getting Sasquatch to dunk under water and float. He wouldn’t let her use a kick board or floaters. As usual, I had my doubts. I kept thinking to myself that he should lay off her and let her “have fun”. But I kept my mouth shut, partly because if it really was so traumatic, she wouldn’t constantly ask to swim with daddy when she’s with me. As they were swimming, it all clicked. Sasquatch started kicking and paddling under water from one end of the pool to the other. It was awesome and hilarious. She stayed in a ball and then flailed her arms and legs. She looked like a squid with arms and legs, and it took her forever to make it from one end of the poole to the other. But she was swimming! We were so proud of her, but our pride didn’t compare with hers. She was so excited about her new skills that we couldn’t get her to stay above water long enough to talk to her. She would quick grab some air and keep swimming.
It’s the same with anything we have the kids do on their own. Yes, there is the aspect of responsibility. One mother said lazy parents make their kids do the chores for them. Obviously, she had never tried getting her kids to help. It’s not easy. As for letting kids be kids, doing chores does not suddenly rob them of their childhood. In fact, having more responsibilities gives them more confidence. Picking up their toys, helping me fold laundry, emptying the dishwasher, or dusting the house starts to lose its thrill. But it gives them a feeling of self worth and accomplishment.
There is also independence. Independence is not easy, it is hard. It’s nice when they can do things on their own, but it is also sad. Once less way they need me. But those parents who never push their kids, who do everything for them, you are missing out on some of the most magical moments your kids will have. The fierce pride and excitement of taking that next step on their own. As hard as it is for me to let go I wouldn’t miss it for anything in the world, even if it is lined with sadness.

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