Growth Spurts: Caterpillars, Cars, and Lack of Control
Two-year-old Callie and I were walking down the sidewalk one day when I noticed a fuzzy caterpillar wiggling across the way. Wanting to stop and marvel at this tiny creature, I stooped down and pointed it out to my daughter. “Look, Callie,” I said. “Look at the little caterpillar!” My daughter stopped and stared at it for a moment. And then she stomped on it.
The only explanation I can come up with is that she had seen me squash bugs in our house, using this method. So I guess I couldn’t really blame her. Plus, she was only two years old.
Fast forward 13 years to present day. Callie has a newly-acquired driver’s permit, so she has been driving us around Ridgeland a good bit. She is doing very, very well, but she is still learning. And there is a lot less room for mistakes when learning how to drive than when learning how to, say, walk. Furthermore, there is a great feeling of helplessness when one is in the passenger’s seat as opposed to the driver’s seat…particularly when one’s young offspring is the one who is in the driver’s seat. It doesn’t matter how hard I press my foot into the floorboard; there still is no brake on the passenger’s side. Nor is there a second steering wheel. And this is somewhat terrifying.
So how are these stories related? Answer: I cannot control Callie’s actions.
Some of us parents struggle with control issues. We so badly want our children to make good decisions, that we have to battle the urge to force their hands or to just do the thing for them altogether. Yikes! This is not good.
When our babies are actually babies, we have to do pretty much everything for them. Then, as they grow up, it is our job to teach and train them to do more and more for themselves–independent of us. This is the goal, actually. It is a good thing for our children to become independent by the time they go off to college, start a career, get married, etc. So we have a lot to do between now and then to prepare them.
I dare say this isn’t an easy transition for any of us. We get used to doing everything for our kids, and they get used to us doing everything for them. It’s good that we have several years to make the process a gradual one, because some of the steps in the process are a bit harder than others. Let your child brush his own teeth and bathe himself? Great! Let your child roam the neighborhood with friends? Um, okay. Let your child drive a car? Uhhh… Yeah, it gets harder.
Every day is filled with hundreds of choices, both big and small, for our children to make. We get to guide those decisions a lot when they are young, but as they grow older, we have to let go a little and let them make their own decisions. [Gulp] Will they always make the right ones? No way. We didn’t/don’t either. But isn’t it better that they start working through making those decisions, and then learning from them, while they are still under our roof? It’s a recipe for disaster if we don’t let them practice before going out in the world on their own.
Our babies will grow up, and there’s nothing we can do to stop it. What we can do is train them and prepare them to be good decision-makers. Give them lots of practice while we are still close by. We may not be able to prevent a caterpillar from being squashed, but we can help our kids see that the choices they make are important and can, um, seriously affect others.
Carrie Bevell Partridge is proud of her daughter’s driving abilities and looks forward to getting to send her to the grocery store independently. (It’s just part of that good parenting, right?)