Letting my children grow

Since becoming a mom back in October of 2009, I’ve struggled to find a balance between protecting my children and giving them freedom to learn, explore and grow.  I don’t want to hover over them constantly.  I also don’t want them to get hurt — ever.  But, I realize that sometimes getting hurt is how they learn.  It’s a horrible balancing act.

For example, my son is currently perfecting his technique of sitting up alone.  Sometimes he gets so distracted trying to see something (usually his sister running around) that he stops balancing himself on his bottom and falls over.  Oftentimes I catch him, and many times I make sure his tumble is more gentle.  Occasionally I’m not close enough to catch him at all and he plops over onto our carpeted floor.  It doesn’t hurt him, per se, but it’s not ideal.  It’s not something I like, but in the end it will help him learn the consequences of what he’s doing so he can learn to sit up completely on his own.  He’s got to learn this skill to continue moving forward in his life.

My beautiful babies are learning and growing and becoming more independent every day in their own ways. I just have to remember to get out of their way and let them grow.

I’ve had these struggles even more with his big sister because she’s older and has done more.  I remember when we first went to the playground or played on our small swingset outside.  As she climbed up the steps or ladder to the slide, I’d stand right behind her to make sure she didn’t fall.  Of course that was necessary at first, but it wasn’t long before she was telling me that she didn’t need me there.  This happens a lot.  I do things to protect her.  I do things to make sure she’s safe.  And then she reminds me that she’s a big girl and doesn’t need as much help as she used to.

Sometimes letting her do things on her own means she gets hurt in a small way.  Many more times it means that the task takes much longer.  She can get herself dressed and undressed, but she takes much longer than if I just do it for her.  Sometimes we’re in a hurry and I just do it for her.  I try, though, to remember that she’ll never learn if I don’t let her try.  So, I stop and spend an extra five minutes while she does it on her own.  It doesn’t kill me, and it helps her learn and build her confidence.

She also surprises me.  Yesterday we worked on a craft together I had gotten at the dollar store.  It was a foam magnet we had to put together.  I had thought the foam pieces would be self-adhesive.  But, it as a dollar store craft, so there was no adhesive built in.  We had to pull out the glue.  Glue sticks wouldn’t work on the foam.  In the past, I’ve always been the glue distributor and then let her help me press the item down where we want it to go.  It’s been a little while since we’ve worked with glue.  Yesterday we did it the old way a few times and then she asked to do the glue herself.  I was nervous.  I was sure I was in for a mess.  I had the paper towels on standby (in all fairness, this was in part because her baby brother had spit up on the carpet beside us), but I figured she could give it a try.  She did a great job.  At first there were a couple extra drops of glue that got on things; I wiped them right up.  By the third piece she glued, she was gluing like a pro.  She did a great job.  She listened well to my instructions and surprised me with what she could do.  I bragged about her to my husband later — in front of her, of course.  I’m also big on praising in front of others when kids do something right or well.

In my head, I sometimes still see my almost 4-year-old daughter as similar to her almost 7-month-old brother.  She will always be my baby girl.  He will always be my baby boy.  But, in reality, I have to continue to let go time and again and encourage their independence.  Lexiana reminds me of this often with her independent spirit and forthrightness.  She just tells me.  She asks to do things on her own.  Sometimes I say no because I don’t think she can handle it or simply because it’s easier for me to just do the task at hand.  I’m learning more and more to let her have her chance at doing things.  I don’t want to hold her back just because in my head she’s still my precious baby girl.

I’m going to have the same struggles with my baby boy.  It’s starting a bit already.  I have now learned to resist the urge to feed him the couple of finger foods he gets because he really can do it on his own.  He’s certainly not a newborn any more.

And for now, I’m going to take my own advice and head to the bathroom with my daughter to let her try brushing her teeth with no help, just like she’s been asking.  Though she’s been doing the actual brushing on her own for a while, I usually put the toothpaste on her toothbrush and fill her cup with some water to rinse.  Today she’s going to do it all on her own.  She may get toothpaste everywhere or she may not.  Either way, she’ll leave feeling proud of herself with clean teeth and I’ll leave wondering where my baby girl went but also be proud of the big girl she’s becoming more and more every day.

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