Friday, June 20, 2008

How does a mama be a mama?

Toddlerhood seems like shaky ground -- as though each day I’m taking careful strides with Fly, unsure of where I’m stepping.

Lately, I question just what to do with Fly from hour to hour. I wonder whether to try to make him do whatever I am doing or to let him do whatever he wants, often on the other side of the house. Usually, the latter wins, and I'm beginning to feel as if I'm not teaching him enough, or teaching him the right things. I tell myself his independence is a good thing. But I wonder if it's at the expense of ... what? Maternal closeness? A chance to share time and space with him? To share life skills with him? Lately, he just doesn't seem to want my attention as much.

One of the issues making this hard is that Fly isn't an easygoing boy. He was a fussy baby, and he's now a fussy toddler, often whining for no apparent reason. When he knows I want him to come to me, or that I'm going to pick him up, he runs in the opposite direction and laughs while doing it. I read stories about teaching your toddler to help by stirring food for cooking, putting things in the dishwasher or feeding the family pets. I have read about younger toddlers who can dress themselves, pour their own beverages or who are potty trained, and that isn’t Fly. He now doesn't seem to want to do anything I want him to do. If I try to show him things, even fun things, he turns away. I'm not saying he never wants to be around me -- and sure, there are times he imitates me. If this is what he's like at 21 months, though, I fear for age two and three. If his strong will and independence are evident now, I just worry what our relationship will be like in the near future.

Despite my worrying, Fly is growing in ways I couldn't have imagined. When he picks up something new -- like giving his grandma a kiss, or making the sound for the letter H unprompted, or saying a new word for the first time, or leaning over to smell a flower and say, "MMM!" -- I catch my breath and want to hold onto the moment forever, reveling in each new way he is developing. It's as if I wish the sense of discovery would last past the newness of learning something for the first time. But I know I have to let the moment go, so he can learn yet another new thing. He certainly has no problem letting go. Clearly, he is learning and growing, even though I don’t feel I have contributed much.

So it's obvious I love to watch him learn something new, but I feel my opportunities to help him learn are limited because of his resistant attitude.

Before Fly was born, I expected there to be highs and lows. But I didn't expect to feel so perplexed by his growing apart from me, not even two years into this motherhood gig. It could be a toddler phase, an individual personality trait of his -- or some lacking on my part for not being more persistent with him.

For now, all I can think is how does a mama be a mama when her child is growing independently of her?

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Blogger the mama bird diaries said...

You're not doing anything wrong. Sometimes kids just need more independence. You sound like a wonderful mama.

11:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If there's one thing I've learned in my 26.5 months of mothering (ha! It feels SOOO much longer some days...) it's that every child is different and doing your best is the best you can do. And, thank God they don't remember everything! ;-)

1:02 AM  
Blogger Rachel's Journal Pages said...

That's a really thoughtful, sincere and honest post. Thanks for giving me an insight into your world of mothering. Every part of motherhood definitely encompasses everything to spoke about - the growing child moving from one phase to the next in devloping often before we as mum's are ready... then there will be new skills and ways you can be involved with him as he changes. Not better or worse than before - just different.

5:50 AM  
Blogger Stephanie Wilson she/her @babysteph said...

It is true that some kids need more independence than others (and some moms wish their child was more like that!!) and then there are some that need more time before wandering out of their own. I think this is typical first child, too, maybe a little early and I think you're being a great mama to him and noticing, and then trying to figure out just how you should go from there. Letting the child lead doesn't have to be a negative thing- it doesn't mean he's in control- but you can just let that guide you to know which way he learns best and the way his take is on life. I think you are doing this Mama thing fabulously!


7:47 AM  
Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

Both mine are independent. Any time I try to take the lead, it ends in disaster. I've learned to follow their lead instead. Join in what they are doing and view the world through their eyes can be a great way to do this mommying gig. These kids are natural observers and learners! Yes, expose them to new things, but again, let them take the lead, it's much more enjoyable for all.

10:20 AM  
Blogger carrie said...

take it from a mom of four very strong willed and independent children: some kids are just like this. Some of mine never even wanted to read books with me. EVER.

I felt like the worst mom. Now I see they just groove to their own tune. And I think if you are just being the best human being God created you to be, that's probably the best example he will have to look up to.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Maria said...

I hear you! Finding that balance is VERY hard. Hugs!

2:12 PM  
Blogger Andrea said...

You are obviously an awesome mother...I think that kids who have parents who don't care or just hand them off to other all the time, etc. have a much tougher time learning things/being independent, etc. Obviously Fly is feeling loved, encouraged and wants to learn new stuff...just not the stuff like helping with the dishes or cooking with you I guess. :) I can't really offer too much advice though, as my Tate is the exact opposite of Fly...he loves to help me with ANYTHING - even getting diapers for his little sister! haha. :) He plays by himself well too, but he is definitely a mama's boy!

3:02 PM  
Blogger Kristi said...

I think that if Fly didn't feel confident, secure, and loved, he wouldn't be able to express his independance as he does, so really, his behavior is a testament to your parenting skills. Isabella is fiercely independant most of the time too. However, there are some very clear times when she needs me or wants my company too. I try to share in her world, as much as I do bring her into my own and what I "think" she should be doing. Of course, this is often easier said than done.

Toddlers are a really curious bunch, aren't they?

8:53 PM  
Blogger Freckle Face Girl said...

Everyday is a new adventure when you have a 2 year old. My daughter has her extreme independence days. It also seemed like she went through a tougher one right after she turned 2. I don't know if it was a reaction to the baby or just a phase. Good luck though.

2:54 PM  
Blogger CaraBee said...

I think we struggle as mothers to find that balance of letting them do their own thing and helping/guiding them throughout their lives. According to my own mama, she still feels that way about my sister and I (both in our thirties). And I think it is natural to mourn these moments of discovery. I know I do. As overused as the saying is, all you can do is your best.

8:50 PM  
Blogger Life As I Know It said...

Two is a particularly trying age. They are conflicted between being independent and yet not really ready to be independent, which makes them, well, hard to deal with.
Hang in there...I found the older my kids get the more interesting they get. Like I get to see who they will be and who they are more and more.

10:12 PM  
Blogger Nadine said...

I love your honesty. Your willing to open up in this way. Let me encourage you that you are a great mom. Your love for son is apparent. Every child is different and no one child within a family is the same. Keep at it - you were created to be his mom and you are exactly what he needs.

11:31 PM  
Blogger said...

Sounds about right.

Two steps away from Mommy, and then a step back. It's what these little folks are built to do right now. You sound right to follow his lead. He knows you're there; he knows you'll be right there when the independence gets scary. You're doing great.

11:42 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

There is hope, my dear. Fly is spirited and independent like Hadley and she nearly did us in those first years. Even though she has her tough times, she's social, fun-loving and delightful. There IS hope. You just ahve to survive the toddler years to claim it. :-)

P.S. Bode takes off running on me allllll the time. Drives me nuts!

7:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think it is a phase they all go through numerous times. He is learning. Just keep doing what you are doing and there will come a time when you cannot stir, walk, breath without "help". Potty training will come. As for the rest let him play ... I think this pressure to learn all the time and be a scholar too young is silly. Play is what he needs ... it is what all children need. Hang in there!

5:24 AM  
Blogger Momma Bean said...

Hi! I just found you and am already loving reading your blog. I had to comment here because I also waffle between the certainty that I'm not teaching or interacting with my girls enough and the joy of just sitting back and watching them do their thing. It's a crazy juggling act, isn't it?

7:52 AM  
Blogger Kristin Allen said...

Just happening by..
I can Totally relate. OMG - my 3 year old gave us such a hard time today. She still is, really, my husband is reading to her. She was so obstinant all day. We just hang on and hope as she gets older, things will get better..not worse. The teenage years make us a little nervous.

8:01 PM  

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