Tuesday, October 15, 2013
This morning the boys and I walked down to the park to meet up with my friend Lauren and her daughter Brooke, toy cars and a bag to collect rocks and leaves in tow. We've had the most beautiful weather lately, those kind of days that start out really cold but then slowly, slowly warm up ever so gently as noon rolls around; the kind where you begin the day bundled up but by afternoon you're in a t-shirt and jeans. Pretty perfect.
And today we walked down to the park in this gorgeous weather, and ran into another friend and her boys. I always find it fascinating to watch Henry interact with other kids, and even more fascinating to hear a lot of the things I say to him come out of his mouth. One of the boys had a toy car Henry so badly wanted to play with and I was curious how he would handle the situation with an unfamiliar playmate- we work on sharing all day, everyday, but with each other and our familiar friends, like Max and Brinley- not always with people we don't know. So I stood back and watched. I heard him say so politely, "hi, may I have a turn? I'd really like to try out your toy." And this very sentence just so happens to be what I say to him when we're playing, almost verbatim. It was wild to realize that yes, this parenting thing is working, and also crazy to think about how much he is taking in, even when I don't always notice.
So the morning went on and the kids kept playing, and soon the boys ventured away from the climbing equipment and onto the hiking trail that's directly behind the larger playground. My first instinct was to tell Henry not to go (what if there were snakes in the grass! or sharp, thorny bushes! or...something!) but I held back my immediate urge to yell "Henny, be CAREFUL!" and instead thought about my own childhood. I grew up in the forest, trees on all sides, deep, deep woods for acres and acres. My sister and I would spend hours exploring- turning over rocks, collecting leaves and acorns, digging in the dirt and taking the trails behind our home when we got a bit older. I remember so much of that, and I remember feeling safe and protected. But what I don't remember is my Mom yelling, "Danielle! Be CAREFUL!" every two minutes, or anytime she may have felt like we could get dirty or hurt.
Parenting, in a nutshell, is letting go of your child a little more everyday. It's growing together while growing apart, and giving them enough room to become who they will be. I'm learning this. And although it's hard for me to embrace my laid-back side, the side that doesn't mind when Henry jumps into a mud puddle with his "good" shoes on, or wants to venture into uncharted territory without holding my hand, I'm realizing that all of this is important in Henry's growth. Outside of normal situations that are just plain unsafe, he needs to be free to explore and learn and figure out things on his own. At almost three my baby boy is truly turning into his own person, and the only way he will ever fully become that person is for me to let go of my own tendencies to hold on maybe a little too tight.
So today when I held back my "be careful" and instead watched Henry run through the fields of thorny bushes and yellow flowers, I got to see my little boy grow a little older and gain a little more confidence. And guess what? He was careful, without me even saying a word. And when playtime was over and it was time to pack up and walk home, my wild-child dug a half-crushed flower out of the pocket of his gray jeans and said, "for you, Mommy."
This parenting stuff is tricky, but I'm learning a little more everyday, right alongside Henry and Charlie. And this yellow flower is sitting here on my desk, to remind me that it's okay to let kids be kids. I don't have to control every moment, hold Henry back because of my own fears. We work on building him up, and everyday we need to teach him to fly, little by little, until one day, he can do it all on his own.