Life's Lessons Learned, and Taught, at an Early Age
Published: April 26, 2006
As the mother of a two year old, I have found that raising my son has become easier in some ways and more difficult in other ways. In one respect, my son can eat on his own, he can put his toys into his bath himself, turn on and off the dvd player, pull his own wagon and help me when I need to carry items into the house. However with this new found ability to do these small, yet very important things on his own, comes a sense of independence. Before I was used to him holding out his arms for help to assist him, now, it’s becoming more a rarity.
When I try to help him do something he now says, “Mommy, ME,” - translation – “Mom, you are stepping in where you are not wanted”. He will then proceed to do this activity on his own. It can be as simple as lifting him into our minivan. He needs to enter the van on his own, unassisted. And if I do lift him in, forgetting that he can do this task himself, he will turn around and say those words, “Mommy, ME” and then proceed to hop out of the van and get back in on his own.
This is to demonstrate to me, if I haven’t been paying attention, he can do it on his own.
Where this new found independence becomes a bit difficult, is when we are out walking together. He likes to lead and instruct me on where we are going. We have two different walks which we go on. One, is meant for me when I am less in the mood for walking and is just around our cul de sac and then home. The other is the longer route, which ends up at the school yard two blocks over and includes swinging and sliding, etc. If on any given night, I suggest the shorter route and he disagrees, a loud yell will ring out though the neighbourhood signaling his disapproval. “Follow me,” I will say and start heading in one direction. And then those unmistaken words will be said from him, “No mommy, ME” and he will walk in the opposite direction. Thus, telling me, either I follow with him and go in the direction that he wants to go in, or to be prepared for a very long, drawn out battle of wills. And usually I relinquish my authority and follow him.
The battle of wills can take place in many different places, and not just on our walks. It can happen in the supermarket when he doesn’t want to ride in the cart, rather he would prefer to push the large, cumbersome cart himself. Of course, if this is allowed, it is usually directly into the person who has the unfortunate luck of standing in the path of a determined toddler with a cart he can’t see around. What I’ve decided as a result, is that there is no option provided to him when we get the cart. And when he says those words, “Mommy, ME”, and tries to push away the cart when I put him into it, I have found myself rationalizing with him.
I will say, “Yes, I know you want to push the cart, but I need you in the cart to help mommy. I need you to hold things for me. Can you hold my list?”
And you know what? It works. Now it isn’t 100% fool proof, and sometimes I still have a struggle, but on the whole, he listens to me. And as a reward for his relinquishing of independence and seeing things my way, I do allow him to push the cart when both my husband and I are together and one of us can monitor his steering.
So what I have found is that is isn’t just my toddler who is learning, but me as well. I’m learning to “let go” a bit of the dominant role I have played in his life for the last two years by doing everything for him, including making all his decisions. I think we are both getting better at giving and taking on decision making now. But I think I’m in store for “Mommy – ME” a lot more frequently as time goes on... call it a hunch.