Encouraging Independence…Despite My Wishes

The other day my husband and I had the “should we have one more baby” talk. He asked me, “Tell me why you want another child.”

I looked at him and said, “I can’t. Why do any of us want children? Do we really want to change poopy diapers, clean up urine off of the floor or change sheets in the middle of the night? Do we want to deal with tantrums at 9pm? Dented cars and hormones in the teen years? I have no idea why I want kids. I only know that I do.”

Having been a mother since a few months after my 18th birthday, I can tell you, I love being a mom. I love having my kids around me, spending time with them, exchanging ideas, thoughts, and memories. I love the challenges that they bring, tantrums and back talk and all of that. I feel like a freakin super genius when I solve a particularly perplexing challenge or we get through a challenging phase.

My two girls have made me a better person and they have taught me so much about life and love and commitment. If I had my way, my kids would probably both live with me, or me with them, for the rest of my life.

If Danielle is reading this I’m sure she’s cringing right now…

At 23, she’s been out of the nest for years and rather far away (1,500 miles as the crow flies) so she certainly relishes having her own life and home by now. That said, she yearns to return to the Midwest, and I’m looking forward to the day when she does.

I will admit, there is a part of me that wishes my kids never grew up, even as I take steps to prepare them every day of their childhood. It is a battle I fight every day with myself. Emily is now 5 years and four months old, and on a rocket ship to adulthood. “I’ll be five and a half soon!” she tells me, excited. “I can’t wait to grow up!”

Which reminds me of the father in My Big Fat Greek Wedding whose face crumples up as he cries, “Why you want to leave me?” I’m right there with the dad. I totally get it!

But children grow up.

It’s what they do.

It is heart-breaking and it is wonderful and it is hard and it is necessary…all at once.

So I prepare her for this future. Despite my wishes.

Lots of buttons

When she walked up to me the other day in a denim dress with an array of buttons down the front and asked to be buttoned up I said, “I’ll do the top two, and you work on the rest while I finish cooking breakfast.” She nodded and I did my part. A few minutes later she announced quite proudly that she had finished the rest.

At five, she is perfectly capable of buttoning her own clothes, but sometimes if they are difficult or there are a lot of them she feels intimidated by the task. My job is to make it less intimidating, to increase the chances of success, so that next time she doesn’t ask, but tries it herself instead of depending upon me.

Library card

“Here Mama, I’ll check out the books.” Emily says and reaches for my keys. On the ring is a mini-library card that the library readers swipe when we check out the books. She holds the books awkwardly, takes a long moment to shove them onto the counter and even longer to find the mini-card. The librarian is always so patient with her. I wonder if they understand as well as I do how important this step is to Emily.

Soon she will be reading longer words and able to puzzle out what the titles of the books she pulls out say. For now, it is usually based on the front cover and how appealing it looks. Emily is slowly taking charge of her own literacy and book choices. Soon we will have to take two bookbags to fill with all of the books she and I want to check out!

Car keys

“So this button locks the van, and this one unlocks it. See the symbol of a lock?” I said, pointing out the remote control’s functions to Emily a few weeks ago. “Can you help me by locking and unlocking the door?” Suddenly there are four hands in action, not just my two. Quickly she learns the difference between the two sliding door icons as well, opening and closing her door in advance.

The preschoool years become increasingly filled with moments such as this. Slowly, although all too quickly to my eyes, comes the transition. Emily is no longer a observer, she is a participant in her own life. With every step, every accomplishment she takes one more piece of control of her own future.

Our days are filled with “Can I help?” or “Can I see?” or “Can I do that?” The other day as she had managed some new step or accomplishment I looked at her and said, “You are amazing, Emily!”

To which she grinned and replied, “I know!” (not too many concerns about self-esteem around here)

In some ways, every step forward is a sadness for me. She will leave me some day – an independent, free-thinking, capable adult. She will leave…and make her own life.

That said, I know that someday, in a not so distant future, the phone will ring. “Mom? Do you have a moment? I just…I just needed someone to talk to.” And with that, I will find a quiet spot and reply, “Sure I do, Sweetie, what’s up?”

Cool Word of the Day (from Dictionary.com)

excogitate \eks-KOJ-i-teyt\          , verb:
1. To think out; devise; invent.
2. To study intently and carefully in order to grasp or comprehend fully.
But observe the singular phenomenon — on approximately the same date several thousand men and women of letters retire to secluded corners to excogitate a thing described as “charm”; each cudgeling his or her head for some variety which can possibly be regarded as original…
— Upton Sinclair, Money Writes!
I preferred to relate aloud, to excogitate in a lively, external manner, with a flow of invention as useless as was my declamation of it, a whole novel crammed with adventure, in which the Duchess, fallen upon misfortune…
— Marcel Proust, Swann’s Way

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