I read some wonderful research years ago (which I would credit if I could remember the author), that said parenting is so tough because you have to first create the idea in your child’s head that Mommy and I are one (sorry, child-rearing guys!), to give your child a sense of safety, and then, as the child matures, you create the idea in their heads that they are separate entities that must go out and create their own lives in the world and be masters of their own destinies.
My husband Kemuel and I each had to be both a mom and dad to our kids, so we know first-hand that these are totally different mind-states to create in your kids’ heads. Fortunately, this is a really age-related task, so you have years to move from Mommy and I are one to I must kill my father to take my own place in the world (with apologies to Oedipus!). It’s a blend, and like mixing coffees or cocktails, sometimes you need more of one, and sometimes you need more of the other.
Specific things we’ve done in this area? Well, when my daughter was young, after we finished our bedtime ritual of reading a story together and lying in bed while A Child’s Gift of Lullabies played (I can’t hear that CD without feeling I should find a flat surface to lie down on immediately), I would kiss her and say good night and leave the room. If she came downstairs later, I would tell her, The Mommy shop is closed. She needed to know that I had other things to do when she went to bed. (Things like paying bills, doing household chores, and getting ready for work the next day.) I really believe kids need to know that Mommies and Daddies are not endlessly available. After a few repetitions, she got the message and gave it up. (Of course, this is barring true emergencies — but even along those lines, on a funnier note, when the kids were teenagers, we told them that when my husband and I were in our bedroom and the door was shut, they were NOT to knock unless a) the house was on fire, and b) they had already tried to put it out and couldn’t! One of our children knocked on our door one night after it was closed, and when we asked, Is the house on fire? (it wasn’t), slunk away with her permission slip unsigned. She got a great lesson in explaining to her teacher why she didn’t have the slip and learned how to budget her time better to create the outcome she wanted (going on the trip).
WHAT DOES YOUR CHILD NEED NOW? A) A GREATER SENSE OF CONNECTION, OR B) MORE ENCOURAGEMENT FOR INDEPENDENCE?
About Linda Falcao
Linda Falcao is a mother, attorney, founder of the youth volunteer organization www.americaserves.net and parent blogger for EP.