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Monday, April 15, 2013

Empowering.

I'd like to interrupt this daily scheduled never-ending photos of our trip (don't worry, they will resume soon...I know you are thrilled!) to talk about Ava for a minute.

I can not believe how much she is growing up!  She is so amazing it's ridiculous.  She is sweet, caring, thoughtful, respectful, generous, funny, witty, helpful, fun to be around and just plain awesome.  I adore her.

She is so helpful, not by choice necessarily, I MAKE her help me all the time.  Oh and I don't feel bad about it.  At all.  She helps me clean the house (pick up toys) about 3 times a day.  She cleans her room (which is CRAZY MESSY) at least once a day.  She also puts away all her own laundry.  She recently started taking showers, by herself, even washing & conditioning her own hair.  She now picks out all her own outfits (which I resisted for the longest time) and can completely get herself ready, including brushing her own hair (if it's not too crazy) & brushing her own teeth (except at night we do it because she needs at least one really good brushing a day) .  She can pour milk for her & her sister, microwave her own oatmeal, help me prepare food.  This list could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Now, I'm not sure how this compares to your average 5 year old, she may actually be quite the slacker, but I'm proud that she can do so much for herself.

She is often quite resistant, giving me all kinds of excuses and complaints but I just tell her that it is one of our most important jobs as parents to help teach her how to take care of herself.  I also try to instill the idea that helping take care of our family, by contributing anyway she can, is also very important.  She is part of this family and we all help each other.

So yesterday, I got to thinking about all of this.  How much she can do, and more so how often we underestimate what our kids are capable of doing because we get so used to doing things for them that we are unable to recognize when they reach a point where they can, and should, take over.

Many, many years ago I was a nanny for a really great family.  When I started that job I was informed right away that the two year old was potty trained but that I needed to wipe her butt for her when she went poop.  I was down with that for about a day or two before I decided she seriously could do this herself!  And she could!  She was a rock star at the whole process by the following week.

That moment was huge for me, not because I no longer had to do that less then fun task, but more so because it gave me that light bulb moment where I realized that parents are too close to their kids sometimes and too used to the routine of it all to see when their kids need that little push to do more for themselves.

I know that there are many things with my kids where I hold on to helping them for myself because I enjoy the closeness and want to relish in their littleness just a little longer.  I really don't want them to grow up too quickly.

But they do and I can't stop that. : (  But I can be super proud of the kind of person they are growing up to be, and it's my responsibility to push them to be the best them they can be, even when it means having them do things they don't think they are ready for.

So yesterday, while Ava was taking her shower, and I was thinking about all of this, I got the idea to have her put on her own lotion once she got out of the shower.  (Ava has terrible, awful skin, which she can thank me for, head to toe eczema & rashes & no-fun-ness)  She needs a full body lotion rub down and it's quite the process, but I really think she CAN do it, she just really doesn't want to, and I can hardly blame her.  But we just got some new lotion and it's much more pleasant to put on so I figured this was as good a time as any to get her to try to do it herself.

Now let me say real quick that when I was a kid I have an awful memory of the adults in my life fighting over who HAD to put my lotion on me, so I really didn't want her to feel like I felt in that moment as a kid, so I was trying to be sensitive to how this new turn of events might make her feel.

Anyhow, I peeked my head into the bathroom, mid her taking her shower, and said "Ava, when you get out I want you to put on your own lotion today."  She totally lost it.  Right off the bat.  Nooooooo! She screamed, I don't want to!!!

So this was going well.

I let her have a few more minutes to process and then told her to turn off the water and get out.  She did, but all the while yelling how she did not want to put on her lotion, stomping her feet like crazy, full tantrum mode.

I told her I was super proud of her for being able to take her own shower and that I knew she was fully capable of putting on her lotion too, she is so smart!

And then she screamed and threw the biggest tantrum ever (well not ever, she's had some pretty huge ones in her life) and I left her there, standing in the shower, with the water turned off, screaming and stomping and sobbing.

I went and stood in the kitchen and felt like the shittiest mom ever.  Super conflicted, not sure what to do, if I was doing the right thing, what I should do next, how long I should let her cry, was I traumatizing her for life?  So many questions.

She settled down a bit and I went in there.  She still looked really upset.  I told her to get out of the shower and come stand by me.  I set the lotion on the counter.  I opened the lid and said "I will do your face."  She seemed pleased.  I then TALKED her through exactly how to do the rest of her body, and she did it, following each direction with out complaining or looking upset at all.  She even said that the lotion felt nice.

When she was finished she had a look on her face that I will never forget, it was pride.  She looked very proud of herself.

Now I'm not saying that she is excited about us not doing this for her, she has mentioned a few times since that she thinks she might like it better when she is six, she's not too pleased yet.

But the great thing is that she did it, and I feel like I made the right decision.

I don't want to be a parent that does every little last thing for their kids, I want my kids to be able to do things for themselves, to contribute to our family and most of all to feel empowered and prideful of all they can accomplish.

Aren't kids amazing??

Oh and isn't parenting tricky??  : )



3 comments:

viewfromdownhere said...

Oh Lord, I'm going to keep these tips in mind as Aubrey gets older. I do like your strategy because I want my kids to grow up to be independent, as well.

guzzi guy said...

You are an awesome mom!

Heidi McNeil~aka Neighbor said...

Good work Sarah! As you know I work with tweleve 2-3 yr. olds daily & we too push for them to do their own "jobs" (put on their socks & shoes, take off their diapers,put on their own jackets, etc) but we have many parents that seem to give us push back on this. I understand they may not want them to grow up too fast, but instilling in them the pride that you speak of is one of the reasons we do this. I so love the days I see the look you spoke of on their faces, I live for those days! We are just trying to do as you mentioned, build their self confidence and make them feel comfortable with being independent. No one likes change, but when you explain these independent changes step by step they learn that they can do it and have pride in themselves when they accomplish the task! Keep up the great work, you are an amazing mom! :)