December 4, 2013

How to Hover

Big Daddy and I are usually on the same parenting page. I admit, we both have our own hot button things that we each push a little harder to enforce, but usually, in terms of types and severity of discipline, we’re the same. It’s not so much sparing the rod, but learning that you must be sincere and that follow through is key.

We differ, though, in one very big way: independence.

Independence is a hard thing for me to grant. I can tell you that, of course, I want my kids to grow up to be productive adults and, yes, I do believe that too much parental meddling and intervention actually makes life harder for kids as they grow.  While our children are entrusted to us as babies and then children, our final product outcome is an adult.  A productive, capable adult.

Raising your child to be a good adult means that you have to give them certain skills.  We teach our children to be kind, because kindness is an important skill to have as an adult.  We teach them empathy.  We teach them how to respect others.   But independence?  Why is independence so hard for me to teach and let them live?

Part of my problem, I guess, is the belief that I can prevent things from happening.  Acts of God?  Random violence?  Crushing disappointment?  Trauma?    The illogical part of me absolutely believes that I can, indeed, prevent any of my children from experiencing any of these things if I focus hard enough and worry long enough.  I admit that it’s a little bit crazy to think that way and I am seeing someone for it.

I will be the first person to tell you that mistakes should be made when the stakes are small.  If you must hit rock bottom, there are times in your life when it’s better to be collapsed on the floor.  There really are.  Learning how to claw your way up is better done when you’re not having to make compromises or worry about the well being of others.

Learning how to manage your time is better when you’re 15 then when you’re 25 and if you can’t manage your time, you may be fired.

Learning how to deal with a difficult classmate is easier at 12 because you’re prepared, a little, when you’re 30 and someone is insufferable in a situation you can’t get out of.

Learning to deal with a tough teacher when you’re 16 helps prepare you for that tough college professor whose class you must take and that boss at your first job with the napoleon complex.

It’s all so important, but it’s still so hard.

I turn to Big Daddy a lot.  “I said she could walk home.  Should I have done that?”  “I’m letting her to go the coffee shop with just a friend.  Was that a horrible idea?”  Big Daddy always assures me that what I’m allowing the Princess to do is okay.  It’s fine, but it’s still hard.

For the last few years, the Princess has gotten herself up in the morning.  This year, she gets up without prompting at 5:30.  She feeds the dog and takes her peanut dose.  She sees to her own breakfast.  I am wracked with guilt over this.  Shouldn’t I be up with her?  Shouldn’t I be making breakfast?

I ask her if she wants me to get up with her.  She tells me no so quickly.  She enjoys the quiet time alone.  She doesn’t have to talk to anyone.  She can retire to her room with her breakfast and watch whatever terrible show she’s currently watching on Netflix.  When I was her age, I got myself up in the mornings too and I relished those 45 quiet minutes alone with MTV.  I remember feeling put out when my Mom WOULD get up to make me breakfast.  Cold cereal is fine.  Leave me alone, lady! (I also remember that “The Living Years” by Mike + the Mechanics, “Joey” by Concrete Blonde and “Veronica” by Elvis Costello were in heavy rotation during those times).

Lately, the Princess has been cooking her own eggs.  I walked her through how to make her own soft cooked eggs recently, and she’s been having them on toast about every day.   I realized today that allowing her to be independent had given her a life skill.  A small one.  A soft cooked egg.

Letting go seems to be the hardest and the most necessary part of parenting.

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