Every time I look out the window and see the twisted waistband of his shorts bunched below his underpants, I have to resist the urge to go outside and fix it.
Be patient with him, I tell myself.
In just over one brief month, my little boy will turn 4. I remember reading a study that found kids are at “maximum cuteness” age at 4, and I can see how this might be true.
My golden-haired boy is still sweetness and innocence, but he’s quickly moving into another stage of his life. His cheeks have become leaner; his body seems to grow taller every time I look at him. He craves responsibility and independence and is eager to learn about the world around him.
It’s my job to let him go and let him learn.
What I’ve learned over the past (nearly) four years is that parenting involves so much more than keeping them clean, fed and safe. As they grow, it becomes about teaching them to navigate the world with competence and confidence. Hard as it is, parents have to let their kids make mistakes and do things their own way.
Sometimes I fix his shorts when he doesn’t get them on quite right, but not always. Sometimes I force myself to resist the urge to fix, to adjust, to correct. I don’t need things to be perfect and he doesn’t need me following behind him, redoing what he’s done.
There’s a chill in the morning air lately. It’s the season of No. 2 pencils and crisp new notebooks. I always get sentimental this time of year. It’s as if my kids are growing up right before my eyes and a part of me wants to grab hold of them tight and never let go. But letting go is part of the job.
He takes my hand when we sit together on the couch. He brushes my hair away from my face when I bend down to talk to him. His hugs are enthusiastic and still given freely. I don’t know how long any of these things will last, so I soak up every instance of his youthful sweetness and attention.
He sits next to me as I type these very words, his hand on my wrist. I never want to move from this spot.
But soon we’ll get up and I’ll let him help me fix dinner. It can be maddening to wait for him to do things I could do so quickly myself, but I know it’s important.
Be patient with him, I tell myself.
When he wants to fill the dog bowls himself by making 13 trips with a tiny cup between the water dispenser and the porch, dripping water on every route: be patient with him.
When he struggles to get a zipper fastened: be patient with him.
When he insists upon getting into his car seat on his own, performing each step at an excruciatingly slow pace.
When he gets frustrated with his inability to do things as proficiently as he’d like.
Be patient. Important things are being learned.
So much of parenting is daunting: teaching compassion alongside self-confidence, generosity alongside ambition. Teaching about recycling and danger and hygiene and inequality and taking chances and being careful and how vast and bountiful is our world. Answering “what is a booger?” just before being asked, “what is dead?” It’s a never-ending learning experience for us both.
And yet, amidst all the challenges of parenting, patience can seem like the most difficult skill of all. How can I expect them to learn something I myself haven’t mastered?
So I remind myself often: Be patient. Be understanding. Hesitate. Observe. Listen. Breathe.
The season of learning is upon us.
Stacey, You could have only learned some of your lessons from SYC and your mother! I love to read you and the picture of the hands just made me cry! Mommy Jan
Thank you, Jan! I have learned so much from your wonderful SYC, and I’m still learning!
Today was the first day I gave Emery a bowl and spoon and let her have at her yogurt. I remember thinking ‘what would Stacey do’ as I gave myself permission to let her feed herself. It got everywhere, particularly as a hair gel. And yet she did it!!
I love hearing this! You’re an amazing mom who gives so much of yourself to your daughter. Thank you for writing this.