Our Independent Dependent
I think I got this (almost)

“Close your eyes, Daddy. Stay right here, but keep your eyes closed until I say so.”

I was standing in Adam’s room while he was changing himself for bed all on his own (of course I was kind of peeking through just to make sure he was safe). He did the whole routine: getting dressed, brushing his teeth (with a little check from dad), turning off his lights, turning on his nightlight, and then hopping into bed and hiding under the blanket. It all went great. And I loved the confidence that my 4-year-old had in himself because he thinks he can do just about anything.  

Two nights later, we did the same routine, but mid-sock as he was finishing getting dressed I heard, “I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” as he struggled because his foot was a little sweaty. I offered to help, but Adam being Adam, he didn’t want any. That is, until he did. And that was right after he got flustered and his sock went flying across the room as Adam melted to the floor. Tears streamed down his face, and he started rolling around. 

I tried to stay calm and let him know that when he was ready for some help, I was there for him. He replied, “But I can’t do it! You do it!” as he threw his arms and got even more upset. I quietly sat down in his chair and waited for him to settle down. After a minute I asked him if he wanted a hug as the tears were streaming down. We hugged it out, he got up on my lap, and yes, I helped him put the sock on his still sweaty foot (while I told him that everyone has trouble doing that sometimes).

It’s not surprising to me that the more articulate and older he becomes, the more independent he wants to be. But while most of the time he clearly wants to do everything for himself, he then has these moments where he completely succumbs to the fact that he’s only 4 and wants to do nothing for himself and wants to be waited on hand and foot. Other times, his responses to me are so laughable, it’s hard to keep a straight face. 

Then there are those times, where he just wants to flex his muscle and act like he is in charge. One night at dinner recently he chose to stop eating. He started to continually ask about how much more he needed to have. Sarah and I provided a consistent response each time, and finally he said, “I know I’m supposed to eat it, I just choose not to.” As though it was going to change the outcome.

It can be challenging at times as a parent to know your child is trying to find their boundaries as they push back on you. And also, to not try to jump in and short circuit a potential meltdown (sometimes over things they can’t really control) before he really gets himself worked up. I know that part of my job is to help him slow down and realize it’s okay to take his time to get what he is looking for. 

I want to see him develop, grow, learn and figure things out because I know my job is eventually to help him have the tools to do it all on his own. But he’s only 4 so he still needs help, even if he doesn’t think so. And on top of that, his snark is hysterical so it’s hard not to laugh while providing the parenting structure at the same time.

I can only imagine what lies ahead in the coming years with our fiercely independent, yet very dependent, little guy. I’m told by my friends with older children that this is only the start. And while I know I’m going to love every moment, I’m also feeling, how can I say this…petrified.


Read More “Making Time” by Jason Springer


April 2024
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