It starts from day one, it seems. Questions every day you are faced with in regards to sleep and eating and independent play. And, my oldest is only 21 months! I cannot even imagine what all is in my future in regards to chores and school, navigating friends and boyfriends, work and money.
I was a latchkey kid starting at the age of 8. Both of my parents worked and I was granted an extremely high level of independence at a young age. When I was 8 my sister was 16 so I almost always came home to an empty house. I had a set list of chores I was to complete every day and my homework had to be done before my parents got home at 5:30. Occasionally, I would call my mom at work (I still have the number memorized!) and ask to complete my homework after the sun went down. Here, too, I was given a lot of independence so she would almost always say yes simply because she trusted me. I’d romp around our huge neighborhood hanging out with all of my friends at different houses until 5:30 rolled around and I knew I needed to be home.
The thing I will always remember most about my childhood is the way my parents treated me. Always I was treated as if I was capable of anything and when I was asked starting at the age of 10 to start babysitting (meaning I would be left home ALONE with children younger than me to care for!) my mom always acted as if I was the best babysitter to ever exist and HIGHLY qualified for the job.
I do think a lot was required of me and I do think that at times I was given more independence and freedom then I probably should have been given. But, I am grateful for being raised by parents who always believed in me and treated me as if I was capable of anything. I have not always lived life believing that (although we all should!), but overall I can say without hesitation that I am the way I am because my parents showed me a life where nothing was out of my reach, working hard always pays off and making good decisions is the straightest path to leading a happy and fulfilled life.
I want my kids to be caring, independent, hard-working and ambitious. I want to have high expectations for them laced with truckloads of grace. I want them to NEVER fear doing things on their own* and I want them to grow up KNOWING they are capable of ANYTHING.
(*Writing out that phrase instantly reminded me of when I decided to go to Venezuela in college to work with Young Life for a month. My parents bought me my plane ticket, dropped me off at the airport and at the ago of 20 I flew to Caracas, Venezuela (a city of nearly 29 million people!). I retrieved my bags, flagged down a taxi, handed the man a piece of paper with an address on it (I will never forget how scared I was sitting in the back thinking about how he could be taking me ANYWHERE and no one would EVER be able to find me) and then fumbling through my money trying to pay him the correct amount. That trip, as you can imagine, changed my life. It was a defining point in solidifying my relationship with the Lord and the reason why I do not fear traveling anywhere in the world.)
Yet, I also want my kids to be where they are at and I don’t want to ever force them to grow up faster than necessary. I want them to enjoy their childhood to the absolute max, while also helping them learn what all it takes to lead a rich and fulfilling adult-life.
It’s tough to know when all of those things are needed and at what time and which stage.
This is why I feel more of an urgency than ever to cling to the Lord. HELP ME, JESUS! No, better yet… HELP THEM, JESUS!
As all of you moms know, pediatricians (my husband included) suggest being done with the bottle at the age of 12 months. I know it’s very easy to want and need your oldest to grow up quickly so that you have more time to focus on the next baby, but I have done just the opposite with Charley in a lot of ways. I didn’t agree with the “no-more-bottle-at-12-months” so we continued to giver her one. Corey and I decided we would be done with it at 18 months. Then, Lola was born and I knew weaning Charley off a bottle (she was only getting 1 in the mornings) would not be of high priority. Plus, I wanted her to know that she still had full permission to be a baby, along with Lola.
One of my first days home with Lola it was time for her to eat. After making her bottle Charley started to ask for a “baba,” too. It wasn’t a time of day Charley ever got a bottle, but I made her one. I handed Lola to my mom and held Charley while she drank hers. Then, just a few sips in she refused to hold her own “baba,” wanting me to hold it for her. I happily held her and her bottle and tried to send as clear as a message as possible that she still had full permission to be a baby. Because she was.
Just last week though she randomly started asking for a “baba” several times during the day. She was eating well and seemingly happy so it kept taking me off guard. I think she maybe was doing it out of habit or boredom or maybe to treat it like a paci?? I’m really not sure, but Corey and I talked and decided it was time to say bye to the “baba.”
The first morning she cried and a week later she still asks for a “baba” almost daily. She is easily distracted, but it hasn’t been easy. For either of us.
This is so small I know, but it was hard that first morning to not hand her her “baba.” It’s not easy not making her life easy. It’s my nature to want to coddle her. It’s my nature to want to do everything for her and pick her up every time she asks me to. It’s my nature to want to put her in timeout and then sit next to her and remind her that she is loved and everything is going to be okay. It is my nature to want to protect her from the world in a lot of ways. I know she would probably love school, but the thought of it most days freaks me out, imaging her in an environment I can’t control.
Yet, not creating a seemingly perfect and easy world for her is what will be the best gift I can give her. Guiding her out of her comfort zone and setting boundaries that aren’t always easy to stay in, giving her small jobs she doesn’t always like to do (like cleaning up the food she threw on the ground) and disciplining her when she needs it. These are the things as a mother that are the hardest for me to do, but the most important.
I know this to be true, but it’s hard. The hardest part about being a mother, in my opinion.
I am such a rambler…. sheesh! Thanks for reading. : )