Tuesday, 6 October 2015

5 Things to Expect when your Children become independent

So today I want to talk to you guys about a tough subject, and one not a lot of parents really think about until it's too late and you're right in the thick of this new phase in your life as a parent; what to expect when your child starts asserting their own independence. No parent ever wants to admit that one day they will no longer be needed for absolutely every one of their child's many, many needs. And while we all spend many hours moaning that we can't wait for our little ones to grow up just a little bit more, easing our work load just a tiny bit, the second that day comes, we all freak out with the realization we are one day closer to being just another character in their lives instead of the hero of their story. So today I'm here to arm all you parents out there, and let you know what is coming in the days, months and years ahead of you, and hopefully better prepare you for that inevitable day.

Mess will become your new normal
Children are messy by nature. They just don't appreciate the value of a tidy room, and they act accordingly. So while they can't wait to learn to pour their own drinks, or make their own sandwiches, the process that comes with learning these skills will actually increase your work load more than if you'd just done everything yourself. The temptation to take over and prevent the messes from happening in the first place will be overwhelming, especially at first. You're going to need to bite your tongue hard and accept that this is all part of growing up. The beautiful thing about children is they always want to be helpful, so one way to combat the mess before it begins is allow them to help you clean up while they are still young. Miss K can wipe a surface like no one I know, mainly because since she was old enough to wield a cloth, that has been her job to do when I'm doing dishes. It kept her out of my hair while I was elbow deep in steaming hot water, and meant I had the cleanest cupboard doors in town. And while it hasn't prevented my bench tops from being covered with jam, butter and cordial (usually all at the same time) I know I can tell her to clean up her mess, and it will happen. 

There will be frustration
This counts both for you and your child. You will cringe the first time you watch them awkwardly try to hold both a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste at the same time and get the two to meet in the middle, and they will be confused why this isn't as easy as you make it look when you prepare their toothbrush every other night. What you both need to keep in mind while watching kids learn is that they have been watching you effortlessly do everything for the past three to four years, without knowing that once upon a time you were just as awkward and uncoordinated as they are now. I can honestly say I don't remember learning how to brush my own teeth (except that it used to drive my dad nuts that all of us kids would squeeze the toothpaste from the middle of the tube), and yet it is a skill I can do in my sleep (an essential skill for all parents I'm sure.) It helps in these circumstances to tell your kids you're good at what you do because you practiced every single day. Tell them that you sucked once upon a time too, but it gets easier. Then step back and give them the chance to practice for themselves. Of course you will most probably have to step in every now and again when their stress levels hit critical levels, but it's important to let kids experience frustration. It is part of the learning process, and makes the mastery of a new skill all the more rewarding.

Don't expect perfection
Sometimes good enough is all you're going to get from your children, and you need to learn that this is OK. While it is important to teach your kids to strive to be better, you can't expect this to come straight away. There has to be a lot of mediocre before you can be good at something, and it is vital that you don't show disappointment when your kids version of a job well done doesn't match your own. This can teach your children that they are failures straight away, and sap them of their motivation to keep trying. This of course does not mean you can't point out mistakes when they happen, it is after all your job as parent to educate your children. But you need to also point out that you recognize that your child tried their best when they do, even if it's not the same as your best. That will come with time and patience.

Learn to lose control
This is the hardest thing for any parent to do. It is our first instinct to protect our kids from all the horrible things in the world, including themselves. You're going to want to step in and keep doing everything for your child every single time you see them trying to take a step away from needing you, and I'll admit even I fail at this one still. It's a learning process for both of you, and you're both going to make mistakes along the way. But you're only hurting your child by not letting them fail something for themselves. Our biggest job as parents are forming a strong, independent and capable person that we will one day release into the wild to fend for themselves. Without all of the struggles they are going to go through over the coming years, they can't possibly reach their full potential once their lives are placed fully into their own hands. Just remember all of this pain, all of this frustration and all of this mess is ultimately for their own good, and yours too. 

You will feel sad, and this is OK
If the sight of your child putting their own dirty clothes in the laundry basked has you wanting to reach for the tissues, don't feel ashamed. It is totally normal to mourn the loss of your sweet innocent baby, as long as you also take a moment to rejoice in the new grown up child that has taken their place. I can't help but feel a little bit hurt every time Miss K tells me "No mum, I do it" as if all the help I have given her over the past four and a half years wasn't good enough. But when I do feel hurt, I just remind myself that this has been the ultimate goal all along. I know that one day I will be replaced as The One Who Does Everything  and to be honest I'm not sure what I am going to do once that day comes, and while that thought scares the absolute bejeezus out of me, that's OK too. In the meantime I promise I will continue to complain every time Miss K asks me to do a simple task for her that I have watched her do a million times before, cry a little bit to myself every time I see her growing up right before my eyes, and act like the day I become obsolete is not approaching faster every day, because I am nothing if not consistent. 

So consider yourselves educated on what is about to happen to your darling little ones. For any of my readers who have already been through any of this, especially any parents whose children have gone so far as to actually grow up and become totally independent adults, please feel free to leave a comment below and share anything I have missed. Given that I am still in the early years of Miss K's path to independence, I know that there is still so much I have to learn, so any education you guys can give is always appreciated. 
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...