My youngest is starting to roll over. My first reaction, other than to cry profusely because time is moving too fast, is to help. You want them to do it on their own, but it’s almost painful to watch them struggle.
The will to let go is a hard pill to swallow at times, isn’t it? It’s just the need and want to help, to not see them fail, yet, the wish to keep the little just a bit longer, for if they do achieve it, they’ve gotten that much bigger that very second by doing so. Oh, the torturous nature of it all!
Using a fork for the first time. You watch as they spill all over themselves, the table, the high chair. Your first instinct is to hold their hand, help the food to their mouth. But how will they learn, mom? How will they know how to hold it themselves? So you have a mess to clean up, and it becomes trying to have to clean it up everyday. That sense of accomplishment is there for them, devoid the mess, they are learning something, and doing it on their own with your guidance, your authority, your love.
Re-spelling and attempting the same vocabulary word, over and over again … oh my! Of course you want to just tell them the answer and get it over with, ending the suffering. It’s painful, trying to get the sound and spelling just right. But you don’t tell them. You bite your tongue, you practically hold back tears, and you let them do it themselves and achieve that accomplishment, small or big, it’s theirs for the taking, and ours for letting them do it on their own.
And then the sadness, they’ve done it. They’ve grown up just a bit in that moment. They aren’t as little as they were moments ago. It’s happening before your very eyes.
Life as a mom is like learning to teach them to ride a bike for the first time. Trying to balance on that bike, they whine to you “No! Don’t let me go! But mooooom, I can’t do it by myself!”
Sure, they’ll want to take the safe way out and have you hold them up forever, afraid for you to let go, just as you’re afraid for you to let them go. But you can’t be there to balance them all their life, every time they want to ride. They have to learn to do it themselves. That’s our job. To teach them how to do it on their own, the right way, no cheating, no short cuts, learn the old-fashioned way, learn it with patience, and kindness, and love. Enough to want to pass along that knowledge someday to their siblings, to their friends, and someday, to their own children.
They will get it on their own, mom; they will get it. And you will be there when they do, to applaud them for doing it, all by themselves.
Of course, as soon as they leave the room you can cry your eyes out. But until then, keep letting them try themselves, keep observing peripherally, and keep encouraging them to get on that bike of life. Just don’t let them ride away too far from you, not yet.