Miss Independent

Isabella was barely two-years-old when the twins were born. When Loud and Louder arrived on the scene our "baby" was suddenly our "big kid." She had to grow up quickly, share her throne, and spend more time occupying herself. One mama with only two hands and three kids under the age of three meant that Isabella needed to step up. Did I feel guilty for encouraging her independence? Yes. In many ways, she was still a baby herself.

But am I glad I did?

Hell, yeah.

It didn't take me long to realize that life with twins and a toddler (now preschooler) was about as far from "easy" as it could get. Going anywhere requires major planning and preparation and I'm constantly looking at the clock and counting backward to build time into our schedule for dressing, hair-brushing, meltdowns, diaper changes, and loading of all gear into the car. There is no "pick up and go" in my world. Everything requires advance thought. Everything is difficult. Getting places on time (something that is hugely important to me and always has been-love her though I do, my mother was constantly running behind when my sister and I were younger. We were late for everything, and I hated it) demands organization, and it means that those of us who can dress ourselves, put on our own coats, and get themselves ready to go (and I count Isabella in this mix) do so.

Fortunately, Isabella (for the most part) has stepped up wonderfully, and I have noticed a huge change in her behavior over the past year. Yes, she's a year older, and I think maturity is a part of it, but by encouraging her to do things for herself instead of seeking my help, I believe I've empowered her with a sense of accomplishment. She loves saying, "I'm a big girl. I can do it" and most of the time, I let her run with this. Sure, it takes longer for her to put on her coat, hat, and mittens then if I were to do it for her, and it does take more time to clear the table after dinner when Isabella takes her plate to the sink and her napkin into the garbage, and it sometimes takes a very long time for her to clean up her toys at the end of the day.

But I like to think that my encouragement of her independence, instead of doing the things for her that I know she's capable of doing herself, will not only help me stay sane, but also help her self-esteem too. She gets such a thrill from calling me into a room ("Come see what I did, Mommy") to show me some big-girl task she's done for me without asking-picking up the babies' toys, putting napkins on the table for dinner, etc. Isabella frequently tells me, "When I get bigger, I'll sweep the floor for you/make the babies' breakfast/wash the dishes," etc.

Fortunately, her preschool re-enforces the independence I'm encouraging at home. In the mornings, the kids are encouraged to hang up their own coats and place their school bags in a basket. One child each day is chosen as the snack leader and he/she helps the teacher pass out the snack. The kids help with cleanup too.

Of course, just as you can rely on the moon rising as the sun sets each day, my family members are not fond of my parenting style. I am "too hard on her." Isabella is "just three" and "still a baby." One of my aunts still carries her around every time she sees her, as if Isabella wasn't 31 pounds and 32 inches tall. They bundle her up when we're leaving their homes after a visit. They sometimes even feed her when Isabella refuses to eat at mealtime. I realize that some of this is just what relatives do. They coddle. They spoil. They like the idea of Isabella still being a baby, because babies are Cute! Cuddly! And babies most certainly do not tell you, "To bad for you, I won't."

But for me, with three little ones, two of whom are supremely cute, but incredibly needy little parasites, allowing Isabella to do for herself everything that she's capable of doing (most of the time anyway) makes my life a bit easier.

And these days? I am all about "easier."

9 Responses to “Miss Independent”

  1. # Blogger JM

    I am sure Isabella will only continue in her independent ways and grow up better for it. I completely understand the relatives trying to keep them in the "baby" box, though I think mine did it mostly because they preferred Skye when he was more cuddly and immobile. Out of curiousity, at what age did Isabella start being capable of dressing herself? Thinking this might be something good to teach my oldest...  

  2. # Blogger Kristi

    Jeni-Isabella started putting on her own socks and shoes a few months before her 3rd birthday, but she didn't start dressing herself completely until she was three. I'll bet Sklyer will start to want to dress himself soon. :)  

  3. # Blogger Mom24

    Again, you know you're right. Sorry your family has such an unrealistic view of what it's like to responsibly raise a child. I know it's hard, believe me, I went through this with Jacob, to feel like you're pushing them a bit; but they do get a reward out of it, and you're not exactly putting her on the curb and telling her to get a job.  

  4. # Blogger Melissa

    I hate to break it to your family, but Isabella is no longer a baby! I think you have completely realistic expectations of the things she should be doing for herself. Keep it up!  

  5. # Blogger Veronica

    I completely understand.

    I want my nephew to be a baby, but he's not anymore, not at 2 1/2!

    But I do remember telling my family -- "Enjoy him now, he's going to grow out of being a baby soon!"

    And here we are, still longing for those baby days.

    I'm glad Isabella is growing up with such good habits. Enjoy it for now -- it will get harder as time goes on (i.e. teen years!).  

  6. # Anonymous NessWorld Magazine

    What *IS* it with relatives!? My own mother who was NOTORIOUSLY hard on us, mollycoddles the HECK out of myeldest. Sometimes my mouth literally falls open at the ludicrous levels to which it has risen. Treats before mealtime, not letting him pick up anything (including a fork sometimes) if he so much as pouts at the chair where he is placed (at the dinner table with the adults) then HE GETS TO CHOOSE WHERE TO SIT (we had to sit at the kids table at family gatherings). Unbelievable. I heartly applaud your independence training, because if you think about it, on what planet is independence a bad thing? I mean really?

    Well done you :)  

  7. # Blogger Pregnantly Plump

    You are so lucky with the dressing! Little Elvis is not into it yet, though I'm trying. We're working on socks at the moment. He much prefers to take off all of his clothes rather than put anything on. But I'm hoping that once the socks get mastered, the other items will come more easily to him.  

  8. # Blogger Jesser

    Independence is the best. Tabby is very much into it (and always has been) and I wholeheartedly encourage her. She wears a coat if she wants ... I figure it's her body and if she gets cold we'll put it on then. She eats if she's hungry and otherwise, there's always the next meal. I just don't see the point in coercing and bribing to have things "perfect." And if the occasional snoopy old lady tells me "that baby needs a coat!" ... so be it. She can smother her own progeny as she wishes.  

  9. # Blogger Holly at Tropic of Mom

    I'm impressed. I'd love for my guy to dress himself more, but he has no desire. He's more interested in taking off his socks and shoes -- at the most inopportune times.  

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