Kay Wills Wyma, author and blogger, invited me to write a guest blog post last week on The MOAT Blog in honor of the end of school. You can read my article, A summer that makes sense… And cents! here. I am working on writing Bible study this week, and was thrilled when Kay agreed to guest blog for me. Enjoy!
“I’ll do it. … by myself!” The words of a four-year-old determined to pour his own glass of juice from the gallon container that is larger than his head.
“Okay.” the word of a mom looking at her 5th child.
With the other four kids, a bit older than Mr. Independent, this mom might have allowed a minute or two of “I do it myself”. But, for the sake of productivity, I more often than not cut short these self-sufficient type efforts and stepped in to get the action going.
I’m not proud of it … but I admit it.
I remember when our little tag-a-long was a toddler, determined to dress himself. He would carefully rummage through his drawer to find the perfect blue shirt to match the perfect blue shorts. Then he would begin to wrestle his way into the outfit and I would settle in for a rather lengthy ordeal. Lengthy and fraught with frustration.
“It’s not working!!” he often moaned with his head wedged into a sleeve hole.
“My legs!!” he would squeal, toppling over.
“Yes, Darling,” came my calm reassurance. “That’s why there are two holes – one for each leg.” I found myself gently appealing to his non-existent practical sense, pleading for him to let me help “just a little”. He wanted nothing of the sort.
“I do it myself, Mommy.”
So what if the shirt is on backwards?! He did it himself. Who cares that such ordeals lasted almost twenty minutes? Pressing issues can wait.
In that he’s our last kid, we often parent him more like a grandparent. With him, I tend to opt for competence over convenience. Patience over perfection. Since I kept my hands off, he could legitimately say (and feel the associated pride) that he completed a task independently.
Not always the case for the rest of my crew for whom I’ve sometimes stepped in, finagled, coddled, arranged, manipulated – all in the name of love. My kids might not be as pampered as some of their peers (only because our family is big and I’m a lazy procrastinator), but I’ve done my fair share of stepping in.
A few short weeks ago I was faced with a decision. Two of my kids came home with end of the year “projects” – one of them a science class egg-drop exercise for extra credit; the other, a directive to create a replica of an ancient wonder of the world. From the moment my kids groaned about their assignments, my mind started racing to all the great ways to accomplish both tasks. Toothpicks, popsicle sticks, and a glue gun would help me create the perfect structure to protect an innocent egg from a 2-story fall. I could even use colored sticks and have some crazy Picasso thing going on. Yes. Function and style. I had it all mapped out… . Then the “wonder-of-the-world” diorama. My paints and brushes were ready to go. No – how about a mosaic-tile creation. Oh, the possibilities. I am… I mean the kids are destined for and “A” on both projects ….
Okay – so these weren’t my projects. But can I force myself to steer clear? To keep my hands off??!! Am I able to endure the agony of sitting on the sidelines? Watching them struggle? Allowing the inevitable glue gun burn? Is there any way to keep my nose out and to let them sink or swim? (Especially knowing all too well that my kids will likely be competing against parents like me who just want to “help” their kids.)
Mr. Independent’s confidence building altercation with his clothes and other “Do-It-Myself” moments indicates that yes, I should, in fact, steer clear. A mother’s gravitational pull control nature, especially when it comes to “helping” our kids, must take a backseat to equipping. Because my kids sure aren’t going to get there with me doing everything for them.
The truth? By the time they hit the teen years, they don’t want to do it themselves anymore. They’re perfectly content – almost expect – to have it done for them. Now I must kick them onto the “do it myself” road. Force independence. Though sometimes paved with frustration and failure, this path packs a much larger self-esteem punch than any parent-driven “A” might provide.
I turn to the young, still eager, voice beaconing from the kitchen.
“I’m getting juice … BY MYSELF!” Mr. Independent bellows, dressed in a backward shirt.
“…Okay.” I reluctantly respond … standing at a distance, paper towels in hand, available to help clean up the mess (or bandage a project associated glue-gun burn) if/when he misses.
Dependence or Independence? For today’s parents, that seems to be the question. How are you answering?