Letting go is difficult for parents
I cried a little bit at preschool the other morning, as one of the biggest questions facing parents hit me square in the face: At what point do you let go of the reins and let your children ride by themselves?
After a brief bout with sickliness, Katie was very reluctant to give up on full-time cuddling and go back to preschool.
It was hard on both of us, so I agreed to spend one day with her at preschool to ease her transition.
It was there that I discovered that children are growing up too fast. There was a personality dynamic that I’ve steeled myself to face when my girls hit middle school, so I was totally unprepared to see it among a group of 4-year-olds.
Katie ran up to a girl and asked to play with her. The girl tossed back a haughty, “No, you’re not my friend.”
Katie dissolved into tears and ran into my arms. I didn’t blame the little girl — I had seen others, including Katie, respond to similar requests in a similar way.
But, as I held my sobbing daughter, I was at a loss. How do you teach a child — particularly such a young one — to handle rejection? To be positive and turn the other cheek?
I wasn’t even sure how to respond, let alone share that knowledge with Katie.
So I sat on the floor, rocking Katie and trying to hold back my own tears.
Seeing the situation, the little girl broke into tears herself. We all hugged and they proceeded to play together as if nothing had happened.
Children are like that.
It took me a little longer to recover.
Staying close so I could protect my daughter, I saw a similar dynamic throughout. The little ones are still testing their boundaries, that includes their own power and that of others. It’s something I’ll have to learn to accept.
I stayed through craft time, where I learned I was more of a hindrance than a help.
And I did try to help. When it came time to use the scissors, I cut. I was a little different than the teacher, who instructed her charges on how to use the blunt-tipped scissors. When I saw a frustrated face, I gently intervened and proceeded to finish the project.
That’s why Katie’s in preschool. I seem to have a hard time letting her get frustrated learning a new skill. Instead of allowing her make her own mistakes on her way to mastering something, all she learns from me is that I know how to do it and am willing to do so.
Why zip your own coat when someone else will do it, and do it faster?
Despite my interventions, Katie’s mental development is ahead of schedule. One question stopped her from really setting the bar: Is your child able brush his teeth on his own, including putting the toothpaste on the toothbrush?
I was a little taken back. How in the world did I know whether she could? I’d never allowed her to try. Seriously, I’d be cleaning toothpaste out of her ears.
And the heater vent.
And the fake flowers in the bathroom.
I’d have to run her toothbrush through the dishwasher to get the dried gunk out of it.
We’ll, that’s what a good parent does. You take some risks to serve a higher purpose: learning.
That’s a hard lesson for me, but I’ve been making a concerted effort. I’m teaching Katie how to buckle her own seatbelt, allowing her to put on her own shoes and we’re tackling zippers.
It’s frustrating for both of us, but Katie’s surprise and joy when she’s able to do something she couldn’t before is worth it.
In the long run, the time I save when she’s a little more independent will also be worth it.
Still, allowing children to make their own way is hard on a parent.
But, someday they’ll have to handle their own relationships, tie their own shoes and cut their own paper.
It’s their right.
It’s only my job to ensure they have the tools they need and the skills to take on challenges.
Heaven help me. I can’t look.
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