The other day I was pouring out cereal for my 8 year old’s breakfast when my husband looked at me and said “Can’t he do that himself?”
I was floored. Of course he could do it himself, I just never thought of telling him to!
I have been a parent for two decades. My brain has been wired over that time to do things for my children because they ask me to or because I have always done those things for them. Something as simple as getting a bowl of cereal became a light bulb moment for me: I am not doing my kids any favors when I don’t allow them to be independent!
So I wondered 1) why am I always doing things for them, and 2) how could I get myself to stop? Because obviously, the problem was with my parenting, not with the kids.
After some soul-searching, I realized that I am a type A personality when it comes to cleaning and getting things done right. I would rather do something myself and make sure it’s done right the first time, instead of letting someone else do it and have to go right behind them and do it over. Deep down I’m afraid that if one of the kids makes a mess when they do something for themselves, I’m just going to have to clean it up! But I’ve realized that they have the skills to clean up their own messes, and that the way they learn to do things is through trial and error. I’m cheating them of a learning experience every time I step in to help!
Another thing I realized about myself is that I like to feel needed. The kids are growing up so fast and they soon won’t need me to do anything for them! As an example of this, I complain about not being able to finish an entire meal without getting up a bazillion times to get someone a drink, a second helping, or a new fork because they dropped theirs on the floor. But as soon as I hear “Mom, can you get..” I’m right there, getting whatever it is they need.
So how do I train my brain to allow them their independence?
I’ll use a few different strategies. One, my husband will remind me if I fall back into my old ways. Two, I need to accept the fact that kids will make mistakes and that’s how they learn. Three, I need to realize that they will ALWAYS need me! It won’t matter how old they are, I will still be their mother and they will be able to turn to me when it’s important.
It took twenty years for me to discover this about myself, here’s hoping it doesn’t take twenty more to fix it! 🙂