Fostering Independence

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I reach out to grab him as I see the bike leaning to the side. He tumbles to the ground and yells at me to leave him alone.  He sits on the grass, tears in his eyes, wiping the dust off his knees and stands back up. Without looking at me, he pouts and says “don’t touch me, let me do it by myself” and he hops back on the bike. I stand back as he wipes his nose with his arm and tries to take off again.  The bike leans to the side and I have to plant my feet firmly to the ground and force myself not to catch him before he falls. I bite my lip but must have lunged after him because again he yells “don’t touch me” and this time my eyes fill with tears.

I suggest that maybe I hold the bike and run behind him but he quickly spits out a firm “NO! Let me do it by myself” so I walk ahead to give him his space while he figures it out.

This is the tough part of motherhood.

I want to do it for him. I don’t like watching him struggle. I just want to fix it.

These are the moments when I remember him alone, fighting in an incubator and there was nothing I could do. I remember how I felt when the surgeon told us his heart had stopped beating during his surgery, how for a moment my mind panicked and thought the Doctor was trying to tell me that the surgery wasn’t successful. I remember the sound he made as he struggled for each breath. The squeak that reminded me that he was a fighter. I watched him struggle to swallow and how I worried each time he gurgled, sputtered and coughed. I held him while he learned to eat and got so tired he couldn’t go on. I remember my mind racing “What if he can never eat and has to have a feeding tube forever? What if something gets stuck on his scars and he chokes? What if stops breathing? What if…what if…what if.”

I didn’t fight this fight for him. He made it. I stood right beside him and cheered him on every step of the way but he fought his way out of that incubator. He fought his way out of that hospital. He fought his way home and healthy.

Though one of the biggest lessons I want to pass on to my children is the ability to be independent it’s one of the things I struggle with the most.

Sometimes it’s because I couldn’t save him then. I was helpless to watch him suffer. When he struggles now I can’t help but be brought right back to those moments and I just want to save him.

Sometimes it’s for selfish reasons. It’s because we were supposed to be out the door 10 minutes ago and we are still trying to get shoes and coats on. It’s because my anxiety levels are rising as the minutes tick on and I’m watching Ms. J struggle with the zipper on her coat and eventually I cave and do it for her.  As I’m zipping up the coat and I see the disappointment in her eyes because all she wanted was to do it herself.

Sometimes I have to force myself to stand back and watch instead of always doing.

If I can just get ahold of myself and keep my patience and wait until they figure it out on their own the prize is always worth it. The pride they feel when they have accomplished something themselves is heartwarming.

No one wants to see their child struggle. Yet seeing them fall and pick themselves back up again is better than not seeing them struggle at all.

I have two very determined, strong-willed and independent children. As hard as it may be, I’m learning to take a back seat and let them walk their own path.

At his direction, I walked ahead to the end of the street and watched, with a lump in my throat, as Mr. T figured out the tricks of a two-wheeler. After a couple of hours of falling and getting right back up again he is now riding like a pro.

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One thought on “Fostering Independence

  1. Linda Di Genova

    Wonderfully written Natalie! …and one day, when Mr.T. reads these ‘love letters,’ he will understand… xOx xOx

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