Sunday, June 2, 2013

"Parent"dox: "I Need You to Help Me Do Everything By Myself!"

Sunday Night "Parent"dox #14: "I Need You to Help Me Do Everything By Myself!"

Oh, the unspeakable joys of a very independent, very strong-willed three-year-old girl.  

I've been told time and time again that her personality will serve her well as an adult and she'll be assertive and she will be able to speak her mind and and she will be able to really pursue what she wants in this life, and that is all fantastic.  And I agree.  I am thankful for who she is and who God made her to be.  

There truly is great joy, but sometimes it is unspeakable because it's buried under all that independent, strong-willed-ness she's got going on.

Every single thing she does all day can turn into a power struggle in the blink of an eye.  The hard part about this is the number of tasks she faces in a day that are just slightly out of her independent reach.  She either lacks the strength or the height or the manual dexterity or the speed to do them on her own quite yet.  I can honestly see where her frustration comes from.  Unfortunately,  we don't always have the time for her to try and power through things on her own and Mom or Dad has to step in and help her or (Heaven forbid) just do it for her. 

Here are a few snippets from recent days with her need to do everything herself...
  • We delivered a gift to her great aunt at school.  Her brother gave the gift to said aunt.  Four seconds later, my daughter asked for the gift back so she could re-give it to her aunt herself.
  • I carried her to the car from our house.  As soon as her little kicking feet hit the ground, she marched her self right back to the door we had left and walked the same exact path to get herself to the car completely on her own.
  • I attempted to put her tennis shoe on her foot, as we were running late to get to her tumbling class.  As soon as I let go, she took off not only the shoe, but also the sock, in order to do both tasks on her own.  (She also likes the "one-up" or "I'll show you, Mom" move, as well.)
  • After unbuckling her from her car seat, I set her on the ground.  She climbed back into the car to jump down herself, all the while telling me "I do it! I do it!"
I could go on and on, but you get the idea here.  The inspiration for this post, however, occurred a few days ago when I was trying to get her into her car seat.  As you can imagine, she wanted to walk from the house to the car, climb up into the car herself, climb up into her car seat herself and click in the 3 buckles on her car seat herself.  Because we weren't on a time schedule and this particular battle wasn't one I was up to fighting, I let her do everything on her own.  After about 5 minutes of messing with the car seat buckles (which she isn't strong enough to click on her own yet), she looked up at me and said:

"Mom, I need you to help me do everything by myself!"

And there is was.  In her independent, three-year-old way, she had revealed yet another "parent"dox.  I absolutely adore the way she made this statement, too.  She said it in a pretty serious tone, with a furrowed brow, as if I should have known this all along.  It perfectly sums up how she feels about every task she faces throughout the day: she wants to do it by herself, but if she's not quite there yet, she wants me close enough to be able to step in and give her help.  Not full-out help.  Just enough to nudge her into independence.  

Rip the fruit snack wrapper just the tiniest bit so she can do the rest on her own.  Move the cup closer to the edge of the counter so she can reach up and grab it herself.  Untwist the toothpaste cap just one turn so she can complete the task on her own.

In our very best mother/daughter moments, she'll look up at me with her big blue eyes as she's trying to do something all on her own and ask "Mom, we do teamwork on this?"  I cherish those moments when she's not only willing to accept a little help from me, but when she actually asks for it.  Not out and out says "I need help" of course, because that is not in her DNA.  But for her, it's as close as I'll ever get.  And I'll take it.

Who Doesn't Love a Good Framed Needlepoint ?
Growing up, my mom had a little framed needlepoint sign hanging in our downstairs bathroom that read:
"There are two lasting gifts we can give our children.  One is roots.  The other is wings."
I don't think I ever fully understood this sentiment as a kid, even though I read it in excess of a million times, I'm sure, while washing my hands.  Now that I'm a parent myself, it has become evident how much wisdom those words contain.

Even though my children are still quite young, I'm beginning to see that this quote captures the essence of parenthood.  On first glance, it may seem that we provide roots early in the lives of our children, and as they make their way into their young adult years, we switch gears and provide wings.  I am learning, though, that this isn't the case, and with most things related to parenthood, it is not so clear cut.  No matter their age, we have times when we are providing roots, and times we are providing wings.  Even as a grown adult with a home and family of my own, there are moments I still look to my parents for roots.  Even though my daughter is three-years-old, there are moments when the very best thing I can give to her as a parent is wings.  

We are in a constant dance with our children...sometimes we take the lead, sometimes we follow their lead.  I'm trying to learn the steps as I go, but it isn't easy.  I know there are times when I've stepped on my kids' toes, when I've held them too tight as they've tried to twirl or spin away.  I know there were times when they needed me to hold on a little tighter and direct their steps a little more, and I came up short.  

Each day, though, I am learning.  I only hope that each day I'm getting a little better.  

I hope that when my kids look back, they will be able to recognize the times where my husband and I have provided them with roots, and also the times where we've tried to give them wings.

I hope they'll be able to say "Mom and Dad, you helped us to do everything by ourselves."

And if I'm dreaming big, maybe they'll even say it without screaming it at me from the back seat of my Minivan while I'm trying to wrestle them into their car seats.

When you're providing roots and wings, when you're learning the dance steps as you go, when you're helping your kids learn to do everything themselves, You Are a Good Mom.

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  1. "Mom, I need you to help me do everything by myself!" - Morgan

    You know, that pretty well sums up a parent's mission!

  2. Yes, she distilled it down as succinctly as her three-year-old brain could and delivered it with conviction. I love her way of thinking. You ARE a good mom when your three-year old can think about, formulate, and deliver sentences like that one.

    Thanks, Carrie, for this post today.


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