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Writings on Motherhood, Judaism, and Happily-Ever-Afters

Hands off parenting

I’m a “hands on parent.”  The problem I’m facing is that hands on parenting, for an infant is completely right, and hands on parenting for an adult child is completely wrong.  And the whole transition from infancy to adult is this giant process of me letting go.

Some of the letting go is easy.  First they can hold their head up independently, and you don’t always have to support it.  Then they can sit up with support, and then by themselves.  I’m great at letting go when it comes to letting babies sit up.  And walking… okay, I wasn’t great at that, honestly.  Both my girls didn’t walk with any real frequency until they were at least eighteen months.  Sam was climbing on top of the table before he was a year old, but I didn’t have anything to do with that.  Hands on parenting can’t complete with Marc’s testosterone-laden gene, I guess.

But I was great at feeding them, happily introduced solids before I was supposed to – when they seemed interested in food, I gave them some.  And I followed Jessie’s cues, and when she was ready to stop nursing at nine months, I went with it.  I followed Sam’s cues as well – although those weren’t cues so much as blatant, in-your-face demands, and continued nursing into toddlerhood.  Julie is still nursing a tiny bit, and I’ve pushed that process.  Stopped nursing her at all for anything other than just before bed, but she was ready for it, and mostly just fussed a little.  A few bad days, and she was fine with not nursing during the day.

It’s the rest of the letting go that I’m struggling with.  Letting them go out into the world, without me.  Not trying to solve all their problems, and learning how to say “I can’t fix this one for you, you have to do it yourself.”   With Sam, it was almost easier – his adjustment was so fraught and so challenging, we literally had to get advice and help on how to get him thru the separation anxiety.  And he’s still little enough that he’s not dealing with PROBLEMS, exactly.  Letting go with Sam was just a matter of trusting Sue Gravel.  And God bless her, she got us thru kindergarten, and my boy is a happy, thriving first grader now.  My Julie is still so young.  Letting go, with her, means letting her have the tantrum in the kitchen and walking away after telling her that she can come sit with us when she calms down.

But my Jessica Mary, my angel girl – with her, I still struggle.  I struggle more with her, because she’s my first.  By the time Sam reaches her age, I’ll be so relaxed.  I’ll have done it already once, so I’ll have a roadmap to follow.  With Jessie, there’s no map.  There’s no frame of reference for me to follow, and I’m constantly straddling a line that I can’t always  see.  When she’s getting ready in the morning – how much reminding do I do?  Too much and she gets resentful and snotty, not enough and we’re late for school.  There’s a sweet spot there, and I don’t know where it is.  Doing homework – same thing.  How much assistance to give?  How much nagging?

She’s growing up.  Somewhere along the line, she started fixing her own hair in the morning, and it strikes me now that I can’t remember the last time I fixed it for her.  For school.  I still get to put in her ballerina buns for dance class, but every morning, most mornings, she gets up, gets dressed, and fixes her hair by herself.  In her bedroom.  Appears out here in the living room, with perfect hair, perfumed and lip glossed lips.  It’s only because I won’t let her wear make up that she doesn’t do that as well.

She’s almost eleven, and I worry about the next seven years (OMG – it’s only seven years until she’s 18).  Because there’s a lot left for us to figure out, in this whole mother/daughter dance we’ve got going.  I think about my own relationship with my mother, and how we transitioned into adulthood.  But in a lot of ways, my relationship with my mother was completely different.  And so much the same.  Because Jessie is a part of me, in the way that I’m a part of my mother.  We grew up together, in a lot of ways.  And I’ve lost track of if I’m talking about my mother and I, or Jessie and I.

Hands off parenting – I don’t think I’m very good at it.  But I’m trying.  But she’s always going to be my baby, and I’m always going to think that I should be more involved than I am.

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One Response to “Hands off parenting

  1. Laura

    Maybe you should look at it differently. Think what experience does my child need next to grow and develop. That’s how I made sure my son had sleep over at friends house, still working on for my daughter. How approached preschool, day camp, sleep away camp, spots etc. Also what skill do they need to be a successful “age” they are in, now to make the next step. If you ask my parents you never know when your kid will come back home. 14 years ago I moved back in with them temporarily for about 4 months while I had new job and my husband (at the time) was finishing school back in Atlanta. That way we didn’t have to pay two rents and I could figure out where I wanted to live in relation to my new job.

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