|My shoe next to Elliot's shoe|
Elliot is 8 1/2 (he reminds me of the half A LOT). He is an old soul. He knows stuff most 8 year-olds don't find very interesting. He's overly concerned with what time events, big and small, occur. When he puts his mind to it, he can read an entire book in one day. But, he has a slight delay when it comes to fine motor skills. He struggles to have readable handwriting, and tying his shoes is a real chore. Elliot is left-handed. We had chalked up some of the struggle with his fine motor skills to his southpaw. However, his neurosurgeon said it could be related to his arachnoid cyst. Not knowing for certain, we just try to remain patient and offer compassion when he struggles.
I was being a real "mom." You know the kind who rescues her child when he struggles? Every time we would prepare to leave the house, I was on my knees tying his shoes. For whatever reason two weeks ago I decided I shouldn't do this anymore. I think it was after I read a few things about codependency and then this quote from Denis Waitley that says, "The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence." A fear came over me. Am I making my son codependent on me through shoe tying? I realize this is a stretch, but I also wonder if that's how unhealthy habits begin...in the small things.
So, since Elliot is time and date oriented I chose a day on the calender and told him that when that day arrived he would need to tie his own shoes. Thanks to his left-handed Grandma Anne he really can do it. He just doesn't like to because he struggles and the time it takes him is more than his 6 year-old sister to tie her own shoes. When the day arrived last week he came to my bedroom with the laces dragging the carpet. I reminded him that today was the day that he would need to take care of this himself. He sat on the floor of my bedroom fumbling and sighing. He wrestled the neon yellow laces without success. I soooo wanted to rescue him at that moment, but I knew the right thing was to let him figure this out.
I left the room and went to pack lunches. He reappeared in the kitchen over 10 minutes later with the laces still untied. Then he looked at me and with a lot of frustration said, "I just can't do this, I can't." I hugged him and said, "Yes you can. You can do anything you set your mind to. I believe in you and I know you can do this. I want you to learn how to take care of yourself." His big brown eyes filled up with tears. I think it was partly because of the frustration but also because it touched his heart to know that I believed in him. He went to school that morning with the laces tucked into his shoes, untied.
That morning I had done something that pushed him toward independence. I drove away from the drop off zone with a heavy heart. This isn't easy. Watching Elliot struggle made my heart ache. But I know that I love him; and he knows I love him. I love him enough to let him fail sometimes.
See, I believe that if I can get my kids to care for themselves in small ways when they are small I am setting them up for the bigger stuff when they are bigger. I know I take better care of them when I take better care of myself. I try to model what behaviors I want to see in them. If my needs always come last, how can I expect them to model any differently? It's just the beginning of their roots of responsibility. Being responsible for themselves and caring for themselves is important. I don't think their wings of independence will fly them very far if I am hovering over them. One day I want them to soar. One day I know they will.
Thank you for reading.