As a mom, I'm rational enough to know I can't do everything for my baby. However, I also tend to be kind of a micromanager, especially when it comes to messes. If a mess can be avoided by me taking over, shouldn't I just handle it? Still, being a mom means letting my baby learn how to do things herself and refusing to step in every time she starts spreading applesauce in her hair. In other words, being a mom means there are times when I have had to step back and let my baby figure it out, despite really not looking forward to cleaning it up later or being a little nervous that it's going to result in needing a band aid.
I'm most aware of my overprotective tendencies at the playground, where I marvel at tiny children who can scale the monkey bars without their moms hovering below them. I always find myself wondering, "How do they learn those things?" Well, self, probably because their parents aren't hovering and trying to hold their hand for their every move. You know, just a thought.
I know that some, if not almost all, kids just need to work out certain things on their own (and when it's safe and age-appropriate to do so, of course). While I won't be letting my daughter run into traffic so she can learn about the danger of cars, certain things — and certain messes —aren't going to be the end of the world. After all, the first skinned knee is a rite of passage, right?
Learning To Sleep
Not every baby needs or wants cuddles or help falling asleep. From an early age, my daughter loved being held, but when it came time for sleep she wanted to be left alone. She still doesn't snuggle unless she's sick (the silver lining of all those daycare colds, I guess), and much prefers falling asleep talking to herself for an hour than being rocked or even read books. When we finally realized that's why she was struggling to nap or fall asleep it was such a relief.
Learning To Feed Herself (And Make A Giant Mess)
I promise I'm not totally nuts about messes. I can handle crumbs no problem, actually. It's things like banana goo smeared all over that drives me well, bananas. When we first started our daughter on solid food, we gave her whole food (a la baby-led weaning) and bananas and avocados were such a hit. Such a hit, and such a mess.
Now that she's older and working on mastering a spoon, it's yogurt or oatmeal that gets flung onto the walls on a regular basis. But stepping back (and taking deep breaths through the mess) is the only way she'll learn how to do it herself.
Learning How To Use Sippy Cups
I don't know about other babies, but my daughter did not take to sippy cups quickly or masterfully. It took so many different kinds of sippy cups before she managed to get any liquid out and it certainly wasn't enjoyable for her. However, on a long car ride we finally just left her with the sippy to play with. An hour later, voila! Sippy success. I'm pretty sure my anxious encouragement didn't make the process any faster. All she needed was a little time to work it out on her own.
Now that she's a little older, she wants a regular cup, despite the fact that most of the contents end up dripping in her lap. At least she's also learning cause and effect, right? Spill the water, you get wet pants. So much learning going on, you guys.
Learning How To Put The Caps Back On All The Things
Around the age of 1, my daughter caught the fascination with putting the caps or covers back on everything. No matter how messy, she's insistent that she do it herself. Repeatedly. But the first time she figured out how the cap to her hair de-tangler fit onto the bottle, she was so darn thrilled with herself it made the hundred tries before that worth it.
Learning How To Interact With Other Kids
My daughter is obsessed with other kids. She's most obsessed with big kids, but she's also very interested in babies or toddlers her own age, especially if she can touch their hair. Other babies often don't have a clue why she's reaching for them or trying to feel their hair (so soft!), and as much as I try to keep her from bothering other kids, she also needs to start to learn what their reactions mean.
She recently tried to play with an older girl who was filling a dump truck with rocks. My daughter thought it was a great time to take the rocks out as fast as the girl put them in. That girl was not having it. She let out a strong, "No!" at my daughter, who instantly got the message. I did explain why, since the little girl wasn't so forthcoming, but I also explained that sometimes kids aren't interested in playing with you. Life lessons early, kiddo.
Learning How To Use Playground Equipment
I mentioned previously that I'm the hovering mom at the playground, trying to keep my daughter from falling over the edge of the playground platform. Honestly, that probably won't change until she stops trying to walk right off the edge. However, I have had to start letting her figure out some of the other tricks at the playground. She clonked pretty hard onto the ground the first time she went down the slide on her own, but quickly figured out that if she went down on her belly she'd pop right out with her feet on the ground.
Of course that meant I was no longer the crazy hovering mom but, instead, the crazy clapping mom who's cheering that her toddler just stuck the landing.
Learning Not To Eat Certain Things
As much as I don't like banana goo or having yogurt smeared everywhere, a little dirt doesn't bother me. My feeling with dirt (and I think it's pretty reasonable) is that the faster they try it and discover how bad it tastes, the faster they give up eating it. Same goes for sticks and leaves.
So, rather than panicking when they try to take a bite out of a leaf and creating some kind of interest because it's forbidden, let them see for themselves how a leaf tastes. My daughter has almost always spit whatever inedible thing she's tried right back out again.