On January 28th, a clerk at Walmart asked me, “When are you due?”
“Today!” I said, almost chuckling. I’d come to believe that I’d be pregnant forever.
When I went into labor that day, I thought, “This is it! Finally!”
And when he still wasn’t born 48 hours later, I went back to believing that I would indeed be pregnant for life.
This is all to say that, 8 months later, it just seems unreal that Little Guy’s here, crawling around, growing into his own person, and eating one of his blocks right now.
One of the most important lessons I’ve learned about parenting — a lesson I’ve learned again and again throughout my life — is that I can only do so much for him; I have to let him live for himself. It’s one of the hardest lessons to learn and to remember, even when I’ve seen so many people make this same mistake — from my own mother to former supervisors to myself in relationships and in past management roles: doing for others what they can and should do for themselves.
It’s logical reasoning based on faulty premises. I’m making the assumption that he can’t do something, and he needs me to do it for him. Or worse: I know that he can do it, but it’ll be faster or easier for me to do it instead of teaching him or guiding him, when that’s my primary role in his life.
I have to accept that he’s more capable than I tend to think. He understands more than I assume, and there are certain things he can do for himself, like holding his own bottle when he drinks his milk.
I’m coming to the point at which it’s important to start setting boundaries. As a believer in positive parenting, I’ve steered clear of yelling or using the word “No,” and I aim to be patiently repetitive in teaching him which behaviors are appropriate and which are inappropriate.
But I know when he knows he’s breaking the rules.
He’s still a baby, of course, so right now, there aren’t many rules. In fact, there are really only two rules. The first one is we don’t eat cat food. The second one (a new one created today) is that we have to keep our shoes on, or keep a blanket over our feet, while we’re outside when it’s cold.
On the first rule, I started reacting to his newfound interest in cat food by moving Lucy’s food bowl into the bathroom. But as Little Guy has grown into a speed racer, I turn around for a second and he’s gone. When he’s not under the table, I can usually find him in the bathroom, swinging the food bowl, pouring its contents all over the floor…and chewing. So rather than hiding the bowl, I have to teach him, “This is not your food; this is Lucy’s food.”
And he knows.
So when I catch him back at the food bowl again, he kinda grins at me because he knows what’s going to happen: I’m going to say, “Max, this is not your food; this is Lucy’s food.” and then I’ll pick him up and swing him and call him a silly goose before I plop him in front of his toys and tell him that that’s where he can play.
We had a similar situation today when we were heading back from Tenleytown. It was getting cold out, and he’d taken his shoes off repeatedly, so I let him keep the shoes off and later wrapped his legs up in a blanket like he was a little merman. But he’d kick the blanket off! So I’d crouch down in front of him and say, “Hey! Did you kick off your blanket again? Your feet are going to get so cold!” and I’d kiss his feet, and he’d laugh, and I’d rewrap his legs and tell him that he was such a cute little merman, and then we’d keep going until he kicked off his blanket again three minutes later. We did this maybe 10 times or so, and every time I’d crouch down in front of him, he’d laugh because he knew I was going to rekiss his tiny frozen feet and rewrap his chubby legs and that he was going to kick off the blanket again; it had become a game.
In both cases, and in general, I don’t think it’s a big deal that I’m playful about how I handle silly behavior like eating cat food or kicking off a blanket. It doesn’t bother me very much, and it’s not hurting anyone (hopefully — I’m not sure how the human infant digestive system handles cat food). But I also know that it can’t always be a game and that at some point I’ll have to be serious and set boundaries.
For now, I think it’s just important for me to accept that my baby is growing up and becoming increasingly capable, and that’s a beautiful thing.