Many years ago I stood in my grandmother’s kitchen relishing in the rich aroma of an entirely home-grown, home-cooked meal on the farm. My mother and I were deep in conversation about travel plans for my upcoming medical school interviews. She suggested I travel by plane and rent a car. I countered that I’d rather drive and be able to navigate my own schedule and timeline. She replied, “You know, I knew my job as a parent was to raise you to become independent, but you don’t have to be sooo independent!”
I think of that phrase often in my own parenting. My job is to help my boys become “independent” – not needing me anymore ….able to live on their own, cook for themselves, clean, work, love, create, inspire, dream….all on their own. Some days I wonder when they’ll ever be independent! I’d be happy for toilet trained! After all, I have another 16 years before the last one is “technically” independent. Other days, I can’t even imagine them not needing me anymore or what it will be like when I don’t know exactly when they last ate, how much they slept, and whether or not they pooped yet today!
Part of this independence “training,” naturally, is giving them the chance to practice. So, two nights ago when we attended a pasta dinner for a friend’s charity, I gave Micah some “space” to play with the older boys. They ran around the building, ducked in and out of the main eating room, and found their own fun. I thought to myself how wonderful this was….and how nice not to worry about him too much as chasing little Seth (who has absolutely no issue with claiming his own independence at the tender young age of just TWO!) was taking up 97.5% of my attention span, with Noah’s occasional whine requiring the other 2.4%.
When I gathered Micah about an hour into the program to head home for bed, I learned that I probably should have given him more than his allotted 0.1% for the evening. Apparently he had been asked three times by a friendly adult (and friend) to stop throwing rocks from the second floor onto the main entrance concrete stairs. Ugh.
Not surprisingly, I fell into the parent trap of ranting most of the way home – “what do you mean you were throwing rocks??? Why didn’t you listen when an adult told you to stop?? If the boys told you to jump off a bridge, would you do it??? Don’t answer that!”
So, I decided that he would be “grounded” the next day from going to fun places like the Children’s Museum with my sister and her boys….and instead must stay home. Halfway through the morning, as we were deep in the middle of a hockey game in our tiny back yard, he said, “This is really a lot of fun to be home today.” I’m thinking the concept of “being grounded” didn’t really sink in, but maybe what he really needed was to spend some time together.
And it was good to give him a test run…and to reset my expectations for just how much independence this boy is ready for. Zero.
We’ll try again some other day….
….when rocks are nowhere to be found!
(ps, we had no problem with getting lost or wandering off this time though – that was the lecture on the way to the event – “You MUST check with me first before leaving my eyesight!”).