Monday, April 14, 2008

The slow march to autonomy

Sunday morning after breakfast, Peanut marched into the kitchen clutching her Spiral Draw.

For those of you unfamiliar with the Spiral Draw, it involves a plastic square with a grooved circle in the middle and several plastic disks with various sized shapes cut out of the center. You insert the disk into the square and as you trace the shape over and over it rotates, creating a really cool spiral design. It is sort of a take off of the popular ‘70s Spirograph toy (which I LOVED by the way!)

But this one has no pins or cardboard and you need to firmly hold the plastic square down while simultaneously tracing the shape. Peanut has a hard time holding the base hard enough, so I press it down while she draws.

Problem is—standing there doing nothing but holding a plastic square on a piece of paper gets boring. Fast.

So as I stood there Sunday morning, I began to grumble to myself. The kitchen was a mess, I had to get ready for the gym and the unread New York Times Styles section was mocking me from the other side of the table.

But Peanut was happily spinning her designs. Then Loaf walked in to the kitchen fresh out of bed. She needed a change and breakfast and I viewed that as my escape.

“OK honey, I have to step away for a minute so you’ll have to manage on your own until I come back,” I said as I scooped Loaf up and took her into her bedroom, secretly hoping Peanut will have gotten frustrated and lost interest by the time I returned.

But I was wrong. When I came back, she was happily holding the square with one hand and making the designs with the other.

“Look Mommy, I don’t need your help anymore,” she proudly declared.

And my heart crumbled. For right then and there it dawned on me: This is how it’s going to go. She’s already learned to do so many things on her own from eating to dressing herself to inserting a CD in the radio in her room.

Little by little, she is breaking away from me. Someday, she won’t need my help at all.

The paradox is clear: With each new skill, I gain a degree of freedom, but so does she. Freedom from me.

While I look forward to seeing her grow and develop, and am anxious to share her life through years that include proms and driving lessons and vacations in Europe, the prospect of her being completely autonomous terrifies me.

You can bet that the next time she asks for my help, I won't worry about those "more important" things. Rather, I'll try to enjoy the moment, because once it's gone, it's gone.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Aunt Kath said...

All I can say is, enjoy every day and every minute with those little cuties. Don't ever wish your life away and be thankful for the smallest of blessings.

10:30 PM  
Blogger Maureen said...

Poor mommy! Enjoy every moment while it lasts. Also, realize that she will need you more on an emotional and intellectual level later on. Think about it - you never really stop needing your mommy!

My brother is struggling with this now as his oldest just turned 14. He keeps saying he "only" has 4 more years with her, 4 more years until she goes to college, etc. He's struggling to hold onto a 14 year old who is trying desperately to spread her own wings and fly solo. It's hard, I can see it in his eyes because he's not ready to let go. I can't imagine how difficult it will be.

Just hug her tight and enjoy her!

8:52 AM  

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