Fostering Independence In A Child Isn’t Always A Choice, But A Necessity

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shutterstock_107299421__1375027321_142.196.156.251A NYT Motherlode column titled, “Confessions of a Mother Who Couldn’t Say No” got me thinking about what exactly the function of “no” is. It turns out those of us that don’t have the luxury of being able to smother our kids all day long, may actually be okay mothers, too. I’m fostering independence in my child because I have to – not necessarily because I choose to.

My child is two and a half. He is really coming into his personality. When people talk about the “terrible twos” they are not exaggerating – it really is a thing. Going from having a little being who was happy being carried around and directed every moment of the day, to having one who is learning how to exercise free will is pretty challenging – for the parent. NYT columnist Sarah Buttenwieser claims, “Had I been able to comprehend the part about how critical it is to foster a little more dispassion in myself for the kids’ sakes, I think we’d all be happier now.” She concludes:

To disengage is a struggle — for me. But I remind myself that if I can’t learn to let go now, I’ll be unequipped to support the kids when they (not long from now) go anyway. Despite my subversion of it for all these years, I deeply value their independence. It’s time to place my faith in them in practice, not simply in theory. With a long way still to go, at least I finally believe my attempts to nurture independence to be sincere.

I know that my child is going to need to grow into his own little being. He already has his own personality and drive. I did too, as a child. I am constantly giving my child some space – by giving myself some space. For example, right now my child is playing alone in his bedroom – because I put him there. He’d much rather be in the family room with me, I’m sure. I need space and peace to get some work done, so he’s in his room.

Now, there are those who think I should be employing a nanny to entertain him during these times, I’m sure. I’m perfectly comfortable with him playing alone in his room. He’s within earshot. He’s had breakfast and soon his Aunt will be here to take him for his walk to the park that I won’t make today because I am working. Then he will return, and continue to entertain himself until I am ready to interact with him again. Occasionally he will call to me, I will respond –play with your toys, read your book, lay down – directives that let him know I won’t be picking him up right away.

This isn’t something that I have always been comfortable with. The necessity to work at home, the simultaneous caring for an infant and the inability to afford childcare has made it necessary. I have to struggle sometimes with the idea that disengaging at times doesn’t make me a horrible parent, it makes me a functioning adult. I played alone in my room as a child and my kid will, too. I’m okay with that, because I have to be. It makes me feel better to know that there are moms struggling to say ‘no’ and give their kids some space and independence, since our lifestyle has defaulted to this type of upbringing for my child.

(photo: StockLite/ Shutterstock)