Last year C went to school two mornings a week. Tuesdays and Thursdays from 9:30 to 12. This year C goes to school three mornings a week. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:30 to 12:30. She loves everything about school: her teachers, her friends, the class pet, a box turtle names Rosalia, she even loves eating lunch at school. And yet twice this week she completely melted down after daycare. Melted down as in a heaving pile of sobs.
This isn’t normal behavior at Casa de Rose. C is usually chipper and upbeat, she rarely gets sad or mopey unless she’s very, very tired or overwhelmed. I think she’s missing her daycare friends and her daycare routine. For three years she’s had a very predictable weekday schedule, this is the first time it’s changed noticeably. Even when Little L was born we kept her in daycare to keep her schedule on track. Now we’re switching things up every other day and I think she’s having trouble dealing.
As a mom, my first instinct is to rush in and fix the problem. I want to make the hurt go away and make everything fine again. I could pull her out of the three day class and put her back into the two day program. I could swoop in and collect her before lunch every day. I could… I could…
I could leave her in her class and give her time to adjust.
As painful as it may be, that last solution is the right one. She can do this. She can adjust. And in the long run doing it on her own will make her stronger and more resilient. This is not the hardest challenge she will ever face. If I teach her that I can rush in and make her life easier the instant the going gets tough then I’m doing her a huge disservice.
I recently got frustrated as I read a Family Circle article about teaching self reliance in teens. Our society labels us as negligent parents if we don’t do out damnedest to make our kid’s life as easy and pain free as possible, then sighs in frustration when teens can’t do anything for themselves. The article gave lots of examples of ways to help teens learn to stand on their own two feet. Great. But if parents let their kids fail every so often, or struggle a little more they wouldn’t have to scramble to teach their children key life skills moments before sending them off to college.
When C and Little L squabble I let them duke it out. I only intervene if someone is getting hurt. More often than not they work it out on their own. When Little L is struggling to master a new skill I let her try until she either gets it or moves on to something else. The initial frustration is well worth the pride she feels from finally mastering the task. When C is having trouble processing a new emotion or handling an unexpected turn of events, giving her a little time allows her to figure it out on her own. The result? A stronger and more self confident child.
I’m not a negligent monster. I watch from the sidelines and shout encouragement and advice, but to their delight, and mine, the wins are all theirs. It’s brutal watching my kids struggle when I could step in a fix everything in moments. It hurts to watch them fail. But it’s that much more exciting to watch them grow stronger and become self confident. I’m helping them develop the skills they will need to survive in life.
Yes, I know they are tiny and have years and years and years to go before they’ll need those skills. But the younger you are the easier it is to learn and frankly I’d rather not have to teach them when I’m shopping for college dorm rooms furnishings. Plus, won’t they need those skills to navigate elementary school, middle school, and high school? Not to say anything of all the bits in between.
Next week C might cry again and I’ll hold her tight and comfort her and tell her she’s amazing and that she’s going to be OK. I’ll tell her that I know it’s hard, and I’ll commiserate for a bit. And then I’ll pack her lunch and drop her off at school, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, even if it’s hard for both of us.