As a parent, how do you decide when to swoop in to make everything A-OK for your child and when to let them struggle, get frustrated and work it out on their own? As a mom, wife, friend, etc., my natural inclination is to be a fixer. If I have the ability to improve a loved one’s situation, I jump at the opportunity. But as a parent, we have a duty to our children to raise them to care for themselves–to teach them to be problem solvers. If I solve all of our daughter’s problems how will she ever make it on her own? But how do I decide which ones to solve for her, which ones to use as teaching moments and which ones to step back completely from and let her handle? I FULLY realize that at three months old WAY more of her “problems” fall in to the “mommy solves it” category, but I can already see her learning things on her own and if I swoop in to save the day, I’m robbing her of the opportunity to learn something on her own, while I get the joy of watching a little light bulb go off in that pretty little head of hers!
Juliet’s 12 week birthday was this past weekend and I swear it has been an overnight change in the way she processes this big world. I had her sitting on my lap, facing me, and I was wearing a black shirt with large white shapes on it. I noticed she was staring at my shirt and I could see her little mind processing, processing, processing….but not necessary finding the switch for the light bulb to shine. I grabbed her tiny little hand and placed it on the white shape and BAM, that light bulb lit up! The revelation that what she was seeing could be touched…felt…grabbed. And for the next 10 minutes she kept reaching out to touch the shapes. I literally witnessed her a-ha moment. It could see it in her eyes…”mama, I can see it, touch it, feel it”. I might have teared up just a little.
And later that same evening, actually it was the middle of the night, I awoke to her crying in her crib. This was a little unusual as she has been sleeping through the night, but we moved in to a new house this past weekend, so I thought maybe she was just adjusting to a new space. After a diaper change and feeding, I put her back in her crib and back to bed I went. She continued to cry and I could see on her monitor that she was struggling to do something that I’ve seen her wanting to do for over a month now….sleep on her side/tummy. This girl was WORKING for it! Struggling, frustrated, trying to find the right way to make her little body do what she wants it to do. I knew she was fed and diapered, so she was fine. Mama bear wanted nothing more than to go rescue my baby bear, place her delicately on her side, and slowly step away while she falls back to sleep. But I fought the urge. And you know what happened? She accomplished her goal, all on her own. After about 10 minutes she found that perfect sleep position and drifted off to slumber land. And now she has mastered rolling to her side and she does it non-stop (which means we now can’t take our eyes off her!). Her bottom arm is an annoying little kick-stand that prevents her from finding her way to her tummy, but she will get there. I’ve shown her how to do it, but she hasn’t yet done it on her own. So I guess this is one of those “teaching moments” where I will continue to show her how to do it until she can accomplish it on her own.
I know that I have a lifetime of deciding where I fit in to helping her problem solve and I know I’ll make mistakes. At times, she will struggle too hard and probably resent me for not rescuing her. There will be times when I step in too soon and I can already hear her saying “mom, I’ve got it, leave me alone.” All I can do is hope that I empower her enough to keep trying, fight for what she wants, and support her along the way. She needs to know that it is OK to be frustrated because success is not built on success. It’s built on failure. It’s built on frustration. And I’m trying my best to raise my daughter to succeed at what she wants in life!