Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.

My mama friends on Facebook will probably meet this post with a rolling of the eyes. I just recently hashed out this very issue in my status update over the course of several days. Following my whining, their loving comments, my venting, their loving comments, I came to a realization...my little boy is growing up.

Noah is 3.25 and over the last few weeks, we have been trialing a program at the Y that requires I sit outside while he participates inside. While 3 seems to be the magic age for this, it's a first for us. All of the programs that we have ever attended have been together, so I was tentative at first but was willing to give it a try if Noah was. On the first day he joined without much urging, but came running out half way through in tears and has done so every time until last week when he flat out refused to go. He gave it a try--a real effort in my book--and while I won't go into the ins and outs of why I agree with him I will say that I believe it is very telling of our current growing pain.

Over the last few weeks he's kept closer, cuddled more and slept lighter. He's cried when I didn't expect it and has asked for me when he previously would not have. I was growing worried, filled with concern and frustration and considering "solutions" and "fixes". And, then it dawned on me--he was in doubt. And so was I. I was doubting his ability to determine his own readiness. I was choosing for him and pushing, gently pushing but pushing nonetheless, when he wasn't ready.

This new world with all of its "without mom possibilities" has only just recently begun computing in his little processor. And I have noticed that our Y experience, casual conversations about possible Jr. Kindergarten (Canada's Pre-K) enrollment this fall and my own attempts at urging autonomous play at home have triggered a pulling in rather than a moving out and away. After watching a pee-wee karate demonstration in awe this past weekend, he quickly turned to me without provocation and refused to ever take a karate class (by himself)--then it was swimming class, a yoga class and music class. Noah has always been eager to jump into social situations--excited to connect with playmates for engagement and group fun. But it's now clear that the idea of all of this without mom nearby is foreign and, therefore, scary leaving him feeling unsure and insecure. My perceptions of where he should be now that he's 3 have been clouding my observation and honoring of where he is at developmentally. As a result, I have not been unconditionally offering him what he has been needing the most as he navigates this very unsteady new territory--more, not less, of me and time.

With the addition of a little sister, more responsibilities and expectations have been tucked into his pocket. He's asked for some but others have been hashed out by us, perhaps, too prematurely. We expect that with a certain age, readiness for moving forward and stepping ahead magically appears. But as with all things readiness, too, comes best in its own time, in its own way, and at its own pace. As such, I have decided that my best and only role in all of this is not to fix or solve anything--nothing is broken--it's simply to be mom. Therefore, beginning tomorrow, I'll meet his caution with patience, his fear with reassurance, his tears with empathy and glimpses of bravery with encouragement and by doing so, hopefully, foster the courage to take the next step in his own time, in his own way, and at his own pace. 


Amy Harrison said...

I am so very new to the concept of RIE parenting philosophy, but how does it tie in with this situation?

j o n i said...

Hi Amy,
In my experience, RIE (Resources For Infant Educators) seems to deal more directly with the rearing of little ones (under a year-ish), as opposed to older toddlers. But it's general premise of "do/intervene less and observe more" could certainly come into play in this situation and it is exactly the conclusion that I have come to--let Noah decide when he is ready, give him the respect he deserves to make his own decisions pertaining to readiness, and allow him to take that leap when he alone is ready. And, having said that, the RIE principles in this way are never inapplicable regardless of age!

j o n i said...

Okay, I partially take that back--while it should begin in infancy, all of the principles of RIE can and should carry through well into adulthood. And having that be as it may, I am trying...lol:

Basic trust in the child to be an initiator, an explorer and a self-learner.

An environment for the child that is physically safe, cognitively challenging and emotionally nurturing.

Time for uninterrupted play.

Freedom to explore and interact with other infants.

Involvement of the child in all care activities to allow the child to become an active participant rather than a passive recipient.

Sensitive observation of the child in order to understand his or her needs.

Consistency, clearly defined limits and expectations to develop discipline.

Amy Harrison said...

You are wonderful - thanks for your explanation.

My trouble is, with our open concept home the only 100% Oliver-safe zone I can create is his room. Our "family room" will always be a place that I need to somewhat hover. We spend lots of time in his room, and he often has play there without me, but a lot of our day takes place where he's not ... free to roam.

j o n i said...

Hey Amy,

Most of the natural parenting philosophies--RIE, Waldorf, Montessori--include quite a bit about the importance of a child-friendly space in which they can feel free to explore independently in an inspiring yet safe space. Perhaps there is an area of your family room that you could create and zone off for him?

Amy Harrison said...

As long as it doesn't end up as a playpen :-P

j o n i said...

yes, of course! ewww....those things give me the willies....


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