Do you ever look around you and suddenly realise things are moving so fast you’ve barely taken it all in? Where’s summer gone? Is Christmas really that close? How old am I going to be at my next birthday?
Lately I’ve realised that both my children are surprising me with their independence. In fact, it’s happening so quickly I’ve hardly had the chance to notice.
My son, who has been at school for a year now and is 5, is constantly telling me he’s a big boy, but in my mind he’s still my baby. So this week when he asked to start playing rugby, I was shocked. My baby, playing rugby? There was no way he was big enough. I spent a few days in constant argument with myself about him doing it, or not doing it. I had to say yes though, aside from the fact his dad is a huge rugby fan and the whole Welsh side of the family would consider it a rite of passage, it’s only fair to say yes to something he’s interested in.
My concern, as his mum, was that he might get hurt (I know, it’s just tag rugby), I was worried he wouldn’t understand the game, he’d be too slow, he wouldn’t concentrate (he’s a bit of a daydreamer). My son, my beautiful boy, is a smart kid, but he’s also keen to make his own rules. I was concerned he’d stand out and be the odd one because, maybe, he wouldn’t play properly. I couldn’t say this though, of course, it’s not fair to voice those sorts of concerns about that to your children as it’ll fill them with a sense of doubt.
He came back from his Sunday morning rugby practice full of how much fun it was, how it was hard work, but that he’d liked it. It was as he animatedly told me a funny story about what one of the children had done that it clicked, here was a person whose character was defining right in front of my eyes. This boy, no longer a baby, is a passionate, funny, clever, understanding and kind person. I realised how much he looks after his younger sister, how he takes it upon himself to help me most days and how he’s constantly striving to push himself. His independence feels like it’s come from nowhere, but it has been emerging and evolving for almost as many years as he’s been around. His inquisitiveness is why he began to crawl, take a first step and later, the reason why he is always asking questions.
After this moment of clarity I looked at my daughter, she’s 3 ½, and I wondered what I was missing about her too. True, she’s not going to play rugby (yet), but she’s far more independent than I give her credit for. She happily goes into nursery now without a look back at me, and she’s been helping me in the kitchen for the last year or so now too. I realised she has kitchen skills – she can chop (with supervision of course), mix and serve up. She also independently sets the table, she can go to the loo by herself (including washing hands!) and she’s actually pretty good at choosing and putting on her own clothes.
Why have I not seen this before? Why do I still think of her as a toddler, rather than a pre-schooler (a big difference)? Her character is clear too, she’s hilarious, feisty, strong, resilient and dotes on her brother. And yet I still baby her, I give in to her whims of snuggles and cups of milk in the morning, I’m a pushover when she wants something doing for her. I still give her the option of buggy or walk (secretly hoping she’ll choose buggy as it’s easier than walking with her).
I think I’m so programmed to look after her, and her brother, that it’s hard to take a step back. I don’t want to spoon feed them and I certainly have no urgency to wipe their bottoms, but it’s still hard to tread that line of stepping back but being there when they need me.
But ultimately, that’s the lesson I’m trying to learn. I’m trying to learn from them what they need from me and when they need me to help. And in the meantime I can enjoy watching them learn new forms of independence, even if ‘sometimes’ it means more work for me (I’m thinking of the recent attempt to make their own breakfast…).