Recently, I've been really struggling with my youngest. I usually call him Little A when blogging.
He's five, now, and we didn't get a spot in our local 4K so he and I spend quite a bit of time together. The last couple of months have been really rough. I've shared a bit of it in the past, but really, full on tantrums when I would say no to something...anything, almost every time. It as to the point that I was mentally flinching when I would go to tell him no.
I was honestly at the end of my rope, and then I read Chapter 4 of How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen so Kids Will Talk. Chapter 4 is titled "Encouraging Autonomy".
As I was reading through, I was thinking to myself, Wow, so much of this sounds like what I am struggling with when it comes to Little A. As I continued reading, I came to the startling realization that I was doing the very thing that I'd always sworn I would never do.
I wasn't giving him room to grow up.
Little A is my last. I'm done with babies, and unless something really wild happens, I doubt that there will be any more offspring for me. And I'll admit...sometimes it gets to me. Call it the biological imperative or nostalgia or what have you, but as my kids get bigger, part of me does miss the days when they were totally dependent on me.
You could also call it insanity. I won't be offended.
Don't get me wrong. I look forward to watching my kiddos grow. It's been amazing so far to watch as they develop into their own people. There's still this lingering feeling, though, that I have to be there for them. I have to be available, I have to help them, all the time.
And honestly, prior to reading this last week, if you'd asked me, I'd have denied all of that. It was a painful look in the mirror to take stock of exactly how much I was doing for the kids. It's the exact antithesis of what I believe parenting to be. Parenting to me is about encouraging your child to grow up. That's the whole point.
Yet here I was, not giving him enough room to problem solve or make decisions or choices for himself. Yeah, sure, I had the small stuff down pat. He picked out his own clothes. He picked out his own lunch. There were small things, and I think that's part of what helped me disguise my own parenting shortcoming from myself for so long. Of course I was allowing him autonomy--didn't you see what he was wearing?!
I forced myself to take a long hard look below that veneer, though, and the truth, while painful, was informative. I can take that information and shift my parenting strategy in ways that I wouldn't have before.
Sometimes, acting out isn't a bug. Sometimes, it's a feature of the parenting system you've put yourself in. Sometimes, it's a signal that it's time for a bit of an upgrade, and upgrade I shall.