You'd think that after three and half years as a parent, there would be little left to surprise me.
No no no.
There's still SO MANY times that I am just blown away by something my son does.
For some reason, Cole has been on a total independence kick. Within the last couple weeks, he has started wiping his own bum (YES!!), making his own breakfast (seriously!), and dressing himself.
Ok, so the dressing himself part...he probably could have/should have been doing that for a while. He's had the capability... I have not had the patience. Usually, if he's actually needing to get dressed, it's because we need to get out and go somewhere and I don't have half an hour to spare to let him do it independently.
Well, I made the decision that I needed to give ourselves more time so that he COULD do it himself if he wanted to.
And people? It was amazing. I had no idea what my child was capable of!
I often repeat to myself: the magic word of parenting is "Wait". Wait for the child to be ready. Wait to see what the child will do. Wait to see if they need help or if they can do it on their own.
As I watched Cole dress himself, I repeated this in my head. He pulled his pants and undies off, then tried to pull on his nighttime undies. It took a few tries, but I resisted the urge to help at all. His brow furrowed in concentration - he finally pulled them up and looked up at me with a proud smile!
He had haphazardly tossed his shirt on the bed behind him, and it took him a few seconds to remember and find it - "OH, THERE'S MY SHIRT" - so much more empowering than if I had pointed it out to him. He asked, "TAG GOES IN BACK, MAMA?", so I nodded, and he proceeded to slowly take his time figuring out how to put a shirt on. He carefully slipped his arms into his sleeves (from the collar instead of the bottom of the shirt), and instead of telling him his mistake, I just sat and observed. He quickly discovered it wasn't working, so he stopped and examined his shirt. With complete independence, he re-tried, this time putting his arms through the correct way. As he struggled to pull his head through, he emerged triumphantly, with a mega-watt smile on his face.
So very proud.
So very independent.
He proclaimed, "I DID IT! I DID IT ALL BY MYSELF, MAMA!"
Yes, my boy. Yes you did. And to tell the truth? I literally had to sit on my hands and bite my tongue to prevent myself from "helping" him at all. It took about three times as long for him to get dressed as it does when I assist. But when I help him, he doesn't have that incredible sense of pride and accomplishment.
It was so worth the extra time and effort, to just sit and observe the amazing growth that my baby has accomplished.
There's an old story about a teacher who was showing his class a butterfly emerging from his cocoon. The teacher needed to leave the room, so he warned the students not to help the butterfly while he struggled to get free. However, the students could not resist helping the butterfly by pulling the cocoon from his body - and when the teacher came back, the butterfly was dead. The teacher informed the students that the butterfly had needed that struggle to build his body strong enough to survive and fly - without the struggle giving him strength, he didn't survive.
I think that's a great example of raising children. They need that struggle, especially when its with something as minor as figuring out a problem and solution during play time or dressing their selves - so that they have the mental and physical muscles to flex during those times of big, important life problem solving.
I'm so proud of the both of us. What an amazing experience to be a part of.