Ah yes. The struggle for independence – from my two-nager.
I think that’s part of what makes boys so exhausting – their constant need for more independence.
From an extremely young age, all my boys have loved their freedom. And as their mom, my natural instinct is to resist. I want to keep them safe. I want to snuggle and love and cuddle and nurture and protect them forever and ever. I’m their mom. I want to hold their hand, carry them if possible, and guide them safely through life. Forever.
Don’t we all? (Side bar: I totally believe that’s why God created Dads.)
But motherhood, you see. Motherhood is the continual process of letting go.
And it’s hard. It sometimes hurts. It goes against our gut instincts as mothers. But it’s God’s divine design.
For example, by the time each of my boys hits age two, the independence pandemonium is in full swing. The biggest culprit? Walking in a parking lot. Yes, just the simple act of walking in a parking lot sets off my freedom-seeking two year old. See, he wants to do it all by himself.
In case you’re wondering, preschool pick up is a nightmare. Not only are we dealing with ample parking lot crossing here, but we also have a sidewalk to walk up (or run up, if we’re two) , complete with a very enticing grassy field directly off said parking lot.
Oh how I miss the days when my sweet two year old would allow me to carry him across this distance. Nowadays? I look like I’m wrestling a small bear through the preschool door. Other moms stare at me with a questioning look in their eye.
Yes, for your information, I am that mom.
With the squirming, screaming, running two year old who just has to do it on his own and won’t take no for an answer. Full disclosure here, I’ve been that mom for the past 5 years, one child happily handing off the task to the next once they reach the appropriate age (two years old).
Oh believe me you, it’s not for lack of trying on my part. I like to think I run a tight ship, unfortunately often barking orders more than speaking them. Sometimes I wonder if that’s part of the problem here. Maybe if I wasn’t quite so “strict”, they wouldn’t feel the need to, oh I don’t know, get away as much.
I watch these other moms with their toddlers who simply follow along behind them, hand-holding not even necessary, and wonder how do they do it? What’s their “secret” to having a child who walks calmly and obeys? (Key word here being “walks”). Even at the age of two?
I begin to question my parenting abilities.
Maybe if I wasn’t so strict. Maybe if I gave them more freedom – like not insisting they always hold my hand or giving them unlimited free range to explore.
Maybe we don’t play outside enough. Maybe I need to take a less authoritarian parenting stance and adopt a more laid-back, understanding approach. Maybe I need to engage more. Maybe I engage too much. Maybe I am the dreaded Helicopter Mom. Maybe my child can sense my need to control and keep them out of harms way, and is already rebelling at the ripe old age of two.
Or maybe….maybe that’s just his personality.
Maybe we plain ol’ make some energetic boys who need to run off some steam, even if that means giving us early-onset gray hairs and permanent heart palpitations by sprinting in the opposite direction through the parking lot.
Maybe we are raising strong, independent little guys who will someday make amazing husbands and fathers.
Maybe their desire to do it all on their own is actually a positive thing – maybe they’re practicing, getting a taste of independence for many years down the road when they will need to make confident decisions.
As his mother, I am always doing the best I can. I always want what’s best for him. I want to keep him safe and out of harms way, but I also want him to feel empowered to – sometimes, and safely – do it on his own.
For my two-year-old, this might look like letting go, and letting him run.
For my 5 year old, this might look like bringing him to preschool, even if he doesn’t want to go.
For my 8 year old, this might look like dropping the you’ve-got-to-remember-your-lunchbox-lecture for the 8-millionth time.
It’s funny how at the end of the day, our kids really end up teaching us more about life than we do teaching them. It’s the biggest, most influential thing I’ve learned thus far in my motherhood journey…
Because motherhood is the continual process of letting go.
It grows us, it stretches us, it hurts us – me as his mom much more than him. It requires a lot of trust. It’s hard. It’s, I daresay, unnatural.
But it’s essential.
So today, I’ll pull into in the preschool parking lot and release my squirming, eager, energetic two-year-old son from his car seat. He will attempt to fling his little body out of the car to run as fast as he can to the field beyond, hoping to get a few laps in before I can catch him. Sometimes I let him work off some steam, and sometimes I carry him kicking and screaming like a sack of potatoes inside that building. Because no, you cannot run full tilt across a parking lot by yourself.
And while I desperately want to restrain his little self, I might stop. Instead, I might watch him race up and down the hallway a few times outside the preschool door, making sure to avoid eye contact with the quiet mothers waiting with their quiet, patient two-year-olds. I might watch as he toddles away, races back to me, then toddles away a little further, glancing expectantly over his shoulder to make sure I’m watching and/or to see if I’ll stop him. Because, “I pointed to the sky, and now you want to fly” (don’t watch this video unless you want to cry).
And instead of forcing him into my safe little box of restrained perfection…
I’ll let him go.
How have you learned to let go in motherhood?
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