Why I Am A Bad Mom - Skirting the line between fostering independence and parental neglect
September 13, 2019
When it comes to parenting there are lots of issues that are black and white; leaving the child in a hot car, reading to them daily, letting them handle rattlesnakes, giving them toys that encourage creative skills. Other things are in more of a debatable zone; vaccinations, educational electronics, avoiding antibiotics unless necessary (for those not keeping score, I'm in favor of all three of those). Now that my son is 5 I have found most of my parental decisions are really only a source of debate for me.
As the mom of a kindergartener I jump between moments of "OMG! Where did my baby go?!?!" and "Aren't you old enough to drive to the store to pick up milk?" He also jumps between extremes from needing me to put on his shoes (they are velcro, we haven't worked on laces yet, so he can definitely handle them) and informing me he is ready to start cooking (he totally is not). He does have a lot of things he can do by himself like getting dressed in the morning and picking time he wants to spend alone in his room, but some things are taking a bit more pushing.
A few months ago my husband and I decided to give our guy the most autonomy he has had since we took the front off of his crib, we gave him weekend mornings. He had mastered navigating the kids Netflix system and we wanted to be able to sleep in so we struck up a compromise; as long as he gets up, dressed, and picks up his room, he is allowed to watch cartoons and play on his tablet if he stays quiet about it. This has worked well most mornings, I say most because he occasionally forgets about the volume aspect of the deal and has to be reminded to turn it all down. Before he goes to bed the night before we discuss breakfast and prepare it so he has easy access, most of the time he requests Os and chocolate milk. This has resulted in happier weekends for all of us; he gets alone time with electronics, we get to sleep in.
On the other hand, we had an incident the other week where I just got to the end of my rope with him and forced some independence. We had a long day and he needed to be bathed. Most nights he prefers a shower because it is faster, but this evening he wanted a bath. He then argued with me when I said it was time to get out and I had a minor mommy blow up. I informed him that he was welcome to stay in the tub as long as he wanted and he could dry himself off and get dressed when he was done, I then went down the hall to take care of other chores. I need to clarify, I was ready to head back to help the moment he asked for it, and leaving him unsupervised in the tub isn't a concern because he sings the entire time he is in there, so any silence is reason for a check-in. Fortunately, the novelty of making his own choices wore off quickly and he followed the steps I had set out for him. We then had a pleasant rest of our evening.
Most of his leaps toward making his own decisions are driven by him, so I haven't had to push him too often. I'm sure as he gets bigger and wants more independence I will feel more sad, but at this stage I love watching him do things for himself (especially wipe his own butt, that was a day worth celebrating!). When given chances to do things on his own I love how often he makes smart choices or takes others into consideration. He is turning into such a great person that I can't help but be proud. So I ask other parents, what should I push him to do himself next?
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