My wife and I recently had a discussion about what the most important things are you can instill in your kids. She said she wanted them to feel safe and loved. Okay, yes, good answer. Fine, I guess that knocks my answer down to third or so, which was this: I want them to be independent.
It’s really not all for selfish reasons. Mostly, but not all. I want them to be comfortable with who they are and to trust themselves. I want them to be okay with making mistakes and (hopefully) learning from them.
Obviously, HP* needs a lot of help these days. Though she is big and strong for her age, she can’t roll over or feed herself or really do anything remotely independent. So she’s off the parental hook, for now.
Bub, on the other hand…I think the first word he actually “learned” was HOT. I put it in quotes, because hot was kind of ambiguous, to say the least, in his usage. There’s a funny story about that HERE, but it was essentially something that he knew not to touch, and he kind of over-generalized from there.
Another word he learned pretty early was HELP. It made sense to us; if there was an emergency of some sort, he needed to let us know, right? Man, that backfired. As you might expect, emergencies suddenly inundated our household. Opening a CD case, taking out toys, even sitting up were suddenly help-worthy.
In his defense, some of these things he genuinely could not do, lacked the fine motor skills. Bub can’t put his shoes on. Like asking cinder blocks to be gentle, it’s just not a fair request.
But it also started to become apparent that he had a streak of laziness in him as well. He CAN take his shoes off, but he strongly prefers not to. This all culminated in what is referred to now as the Great Shoe Showdown.
We don’t wear shoes in our house. Since he is now one of the we (shoe-wearing folk), he is obliged to follow this rule. And since we want to teach independence, we started transitioning to him doing it by himself. I did one shoe for about a week, he did the other one. And still he wouldn’t go quietly.
We came back the other day, I asked him to take his shoes off. He wandered in the house, grabbed the nearest toy, sort of looked back at me. I asked him again, he smirked. Angry Daddy.
So I brought him over to his stool by the door and told him he could get up when his shoes were off, making sure he understood. He bawled, howled, whined and whinnied, as though I had asked him to remove something much more permanent and irreplaceable than a pair of second-hand Keds. But he didn’t get off the stool. He is a smart kid, and he knew exactly what I was asking of him.
I waited for a few seconds, then told him I was going to go do the dishes, and that he should come join me once he had taken his shoes off. About a minute later, I heard rustling. Poked my head around to the hallway, where he stood next to the stool.
“Are your shoes off?” Apparently not, because he went right back to the stool. He sat, I’d imagine pouting, for another minute or two, and then he came into the kitchen.
“Hi, Daddy!” Like nothing had ever happened. And though he is still a bit of a drama king about it, he routinely comes in, sits on his stool and takes his shoes off. He’s not ready to balance his own checkbook or anything yet, but it’s a start.
*I’ve renamed Peanut, on account of accidentally stealing the nickname of a fellow father blogger’s daughter. He is hilarious; please check out HOMEMAKER MAN here.