I’m a believer in fostering independence.
Yes, there are some ways that I am protective and keep her close, but I generally have my eye on looking for opportunities for her to grow in her sense of independence and capabilities.
Since we was very little, I would nudge her to ask for things in public. She learned to muster up the courage time and again. To this day, I nudge her, and she almost always accepts the challenge with resistance and returns to me proud of herself.
She learned how to handle herself on the phone with good manners long ago (though there are often lapses). She runs the dishwasher, can use the stove, has used the ATM machine since she was five, if not sooner, and is pretty handy around the kitchen, even with knives. We also created some good progress this year towards getting her started as an entrepreneur, something we’ll soon do more of. These are just some examples.
Of course, it never stops. Every day, it seems, offers new opportunities to guide her or nudge her in this manner. Sometimes, it’s just small things or a conversation. For example, we were talking about soccer today, which she starts tomorrow.
Her – “Are you going to stay there with me?”
Me – “What do you think?”
Her – “At least until I am comfortable and feel safe, right?”
Me – “Yes, I’ll be there on most days. But, you know, you can handle it. When I was eight, we were living in Switzerland, and I was taking trams, busses and traveling on my own. I want you to feel strong and powerful in the world on your own. You can do it.”
She replied that she did and indicated that she just needed help adjusting to this new experience.
Later on, she wanted to watch her favorite mermaid show on Amazon Prime. She ran to me to help her with my password. Instead of getting up, I told her how to do it.
Her – “I can’t do it. I try but it never works for me. Can you just do it?”
Me – “Don’t say you can’t. Say you don’t know how yet. No, I won’t do it. You need to learn.”
I then went on to give her verbal instructions. Off she went, tried, and then ran back, frustrated. I got up and walked to my office to help her.
Her – “Can you just do it?”
Me – “No. If I do it for you, then you’re dependent on me. Do you want to be dependent on me for this or independent so you can do it any time you want to on your own?”
Her – “Independent.”
Me – “Then you have to learn.”
She approached the computer again, followed my instructions and was successful at logging in.
This was only three minutes out of our day, but it’s another brick in her self-confidence and in expanding her capabilities. Sometimes big advancements as a parent aren’t visible to others and take place in the simplest of ways in the span of a few minutes.