Too Much Too Soon – pushing our kids
“He’ll have to sleep alone eventually.” “She won’t be able to breastfeed forever!” “Might as well start learning to read now, after all, kindergarten is only 6 months away.” “She’ll need to shower without help when she’s at camp…” “You can’t nurse her when you’re out of town, better reduce her reliance on it.” Parent talk is full of comments such as these, comments that imply that because one day our children will need to master certain skills, we might as well start pushing them towards those skills right now.
I was thinking about this in light of a two-night trip I have scheduled at the end of this month. At first I planned to bring Sweetpea with me so she could nurse to her heart’s content, but then I started second-guessing myself. I’ll be visiting a friend with a newborn, bringing Sweetpea will make me a lot less helpful. Sweetpea has been incredibly attached to daddy lately, she’d miss him terribly and likely wake up the whole house when he’s not available on our trip. Many days she nurses only once or twice; when she’s with daddy she doesn’t even ask to. I’m close to having decided that I’m leaving her home with daddy and the bigger kids.
Yesterday Sweetpea asked me to nurse in the middle of the morning, a time she hasn’t asked to nurse in a long time. My first thought was “we can’t, because if you’re used to a mid-morning nursing again, how will you manage when I’m away?!” But you know, I’m not away. I’m here. Daddy’s at work and I’m here. My toddler wants to nurse. A “no” in that moment would accomplish nothing. In fact, I think that the opposite is true: the more I can meet her desire for nursing and closeness right now, before I leave, the stronger she’ll be once I’m gone for 3 days. So of course I said “yes” and she nursed for about a second before she said “bye nursie” and went off to play. I believe she’ll be just fine while I’m gone. She already knows how to get comfort and snuggles other ways, especially when she’s with her daddy.
I work hard to meet our kids’ needs now, in this moment. My hope is that as we meet their needs (and help them find ways to fulfill their desires appropriately), they will feel empowered and safe enough to work towards greater independence on their own. So far, it seems to be working: Buddy has started zipping his own coat even though he still has 5 months before starting kindergarten. Missy has shown us she can function without sucking her thumb (though generally still likes to do that). Sweetpea has learned to sleep in her own bed without nighttime nursing. They’ll continue to gain greater independence and learn more skills. I’ll expose them to ways to master these skills and provide them with resources and alternatives, but will not push it down their throats. They’re wired to learn, and I marvel every time I see them in action.