When I first became a mom seven years ago, I distinctly remember the moment we arrived home with our brand new baby girl. It was then that I fully began to understand the magnitude of responsibility that had just been placed in our world.
Our beautiful, blue-eyed baby girl was completely dependent on us for survival, and our lives quickly began to revolve around her needs, If she was hungry as we were preparing to walk out the door, well, we were late getting where we were going. If she was overwhelmed after being passed around at a family gathering and needed calm and quiet, we packed up as fast as we could to head home. Like most new parents, we were adjusting to a new life that was all about her.
As the years passed and our little baby grew into a tiny toddler and now, a little girl, I’ve wrestled between wanting to give her the world and making her childhood as carefree as possible, and wanting to teach her how to navigate her world on her own. And as Lauren Lodder of Mommy Owl points out in a recent Facebook post, I’m not the only mom at a crossroads when making this decision.
Lodder, whose post has been shared over 200 times, depicts a day in the life of her 5-year-old daughter as she implements a newfound parenting style of letting her “perfectly capable” little girl struggle with everyday tasks, such as making her own breakfast, tying her shoes, completing her homework, and falling asleep on her own once she’s been tucked into bed.
But it’s not easy, and according to Lodder, “Every day, my daughter struggles because she is 5 years old and all of this, all of it, is new to her.”
Speaking with Babble, Lodder explains that when she teaches her daughter something new, she will show her how to do it a few times and then ask her to try it on her own. Like most children, Lodder shares that her daughter often becomes frustrated and exclaims that she “can’t do it!” or that the task is “too hard.” She goes on to explain, however, that with some gentle encouragement, her daughter is almost always able to accomplish the task.
“I tell her I understand that it seems hard, but I would like her to try again. Eventually, she gets it,” Lodder states. “Not only has she learned a new task, but she’s accomplished something challenging. She has proven to herself she can do it.”
Lodder also acknowledges that while it’s hard for her to watch her daughter struggle with a new challenge, she never asks her to attempt something she’s not sure she can accomplish.
“Parents feel bad watching their kids struggle. Maybe they are afraid it will hurt their self-confidence if they don’t understand something immediately. I get that. It’s hard for me too. But, so much learning takes place during the struggle, during that trial and error period,” Lodder expresses.
Admittedly, there have been many, many times when I’ve stepped in and found the missing toy, picked out the outfits, broken up the squabble, or stayed up late to clean up the messes, because in that moment, it just seems easier for everyone if I handled it and solved the problem. But, as Lodder points out, perhaps the best thing we can do as parents is not jump in and instead, challenge and encourage our little ones through the struggle.
And as Lodder’s Facebook post reminds us:
“Our children won’t be living with us forever; we won’t always be there to fix their problems, help them avoid mistakes or tie their shoes and, even if we could, we shouldn’t.”
And she’s so right — we shouldn’t. The dedicated mom tells Babble, “Give them some breathing room. Maybe, just maybe, they will surprise you … and themselves.”