For the first time in almost four years, I can take a shower and dry my hair without waiting for my husband to get home, paying a babysitter, wasting the precious hours when my son’s at school, or waiting for a grandparent to come over and play. This may sound insignificant to those of you who’ve had pretty independent kids to start with, but my little guy has always been super, super attached — leaving the room he’s in is not on the list of things he likes.
By this point I’ve learned to embrace it; appreciate the time he wants to spend with me and how much he likes being with me (ha!) before he’s a teenager and hating my guts and very existence. I’ve gotten as creative as possible over the years to find ways to get things done with his help or with him attached to my side, but recently I’ve barely had to use my well-practiced techniques.
Partly because of his age (he’s 3-and-a-half) and partly because we have a new baby on the way, we decided it was time to help encourage a little independence. Not only was he showing signs of developmental readiness, but we didn’t want to keep waiting and create a negative side effect of becoming a big brother – having to do things by himself because mom was busy with the baby.
Here are a couple of ways we’ve tried to foster toddler independence:
- We put a small pitcher where he can reach it in the fridge and moved all of his cups and plates to the bottom cabinets so he can help himself to a drink.
- We made his snacks easily accessible.
- His clothes are in drawers where he can reach instead of entirely hanging high in the closet.
- We gave him slip-on shoes (summer helps for that one).
- We put stools in the places he would need them the most (kitchen, bathrooms, bedroom).
- We put hooks and shelves where he can reach so he can put his own things away.
As a result, he’s helping himself to food in the fridge — spreading peanut butter on celery and asking for raisins, moving the stool to open the garage door, picking out his clothes, and climbing in the car seat by himself and even attempting to buckle it.
Almost immediately after “setting the stage” for him, he’s suddenly doing all kinds of things by himself. Not only has this led to him being able to actually do the tasks, it’s taught him that he doesn’t need me to do everything for him. It’s partly awesome and also not; I’ve gotten quite used to him as my little shadow and I’m not sure I’m ready for him to grow up
But deep down, I know it’s great. And not only because it’s been amazing watching him grow and do things I’d never thought he’d do on his own, but because of a surprising and slightly selfish side effect it’s had:
It gives me more freedom and flexibility with the day than I’ve had in the past three-and-a-half years.
You may think I’m exaggerating when I say this has been life-changing for me, but I’m not in the least. It’s created a complete 180 in the tone of our day and the amount I’m able to get done without feeling like I’ve lost control or am getting stressed out. (Dare I say, even chores have become almost fun.) After three years of trying to “figure it all out” and appear like I have my act together, I really am figuring it out and have my act together.
I never the knew this day would come. Now if only we could settle here for a little while longer and not move on to the next big change – I’m still adjusting to my baby growing up this much.