The scene: Mom and Dad’s bed, 6:30 Sunday morning. We are asleep.
Enter a wide awake almost 5-year old, who jumps in bed next to Mom. “Good morning Mommy!”
Mom opens one eye and mumbles something that could be “Good morning. Still sleeping.”
Dad rolls over and tells the girl, “If you want to be awake and noisy, you need to go back to your room and look at books or play with your toys. Mommy and Daddy are sleeping.”
This sends girl into a tizzy. She panics, screams and cries that she is too afraid to be alone in her room; that she can’t do it. “I’m scared! I’m scared! I’M SCAAARED!”
Dad asks for back up, so Mom, usually the pushover, rephrases the request. “You’re such a big girl. You have so many fun toys in your room. You can do it! Go look at books and have fun.”
Dad says, “You’re almost 5-years old and you should be able to play in your room by yourself.”
Finally, Dad offers to turn the lights on for the girl. She stomps into her room, screaming and crying at the top of her lungs. The sobs quiet down to gasping hiccups. The Mom and Dad don’t get back to sleep. The girl comes in with boogers and tears running down her face in need of a tissue. She gets one, then stomps back to her room.
Dad can’t sleep so he gets up and checks on her. He peeks in and sees the most pathetic girl in the world, sitting in her chair surrounded by her stuffed animals, under a blankie, with the most forlorn look of rejection and abandonment on her face.
I think we need to work on a little independence in our house. I know that independence breeds self-esteem. This is a monster that I have created—I’m the softy in the family and she knows how to play me. Take our morning routine, for example. In my haste to get out the door most mornings (ok, every morning), I fall in to the trap of doing everything for her. It’s just faster. I get the clothes and get her dressed. I pack the lunch and backpack and put it in the car. I brush the hair and we’re off. I know that she can do all these things by herself. But I’m the pushover. I want everything to go smoothly so I make sure that whatever needs to get done gets done. I realized that I have the makings of a…gasp…helicopter parent! Oh I so do not want to be one of those!
Most parenting experts and parents themselves tell you the same basic things to help foster independence in your child. Give her choices, let her help set rules, give up on perfect and be patient. Every day I ask my girl what outfit she would like to wear. She doesn’t want to get dressed at all, so she says “Nothing, Mommy.” Let’s try this again. How about this outfit or that outfit? Nope. Ok, I choose for her. The getting dressed commences with all the drama that you would expect. I’m basically dumping her out of her pajamas and into her school clothes!
I am happy for the small successes in independence she does display. She loves to get her own snacks and make her own toast with jelly. She loves to help cook and takes over the mixing and measuring. She has fun doing those things and gets an immediate reward. She is also good at setting rules. I think she likes the control she has when I ask her what the rules should be for the grocery store. The other stuff, the hard stuff? Well, she isn’t interested. Add a dash of stubborn and you get the idea.
Here’s my challenge: I need to put my own big girl pants and start enforcing. It’s sad but I feel like I’m going to have to force her to be independent. She is an amazing child, but she spends too much time up my butt! It’s hard to accept that she’s growing up. But the reality of it is chasing me. There are only a few months left before she goes out into the big world of kindergarten. I can’t always be right there for her and I definitely don’t want to be. I know we will both be better for it in the long run. It’s the short run that I’m worried about. Is there enough wine in the house for me to get through this? I hope so.