“I can do it myself!” is a phrase I hear A LOT from my four-year-old daughter. She usually wants to do e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g herself without any help be it anything from pouring her own milk to picking out her clothes for the day and anything else in between. Sometimes it’s difficult for me to accept that she is becoming so grown up and that she is no longer my little baby. There are many times when it just feels easier to do things for her rather than letting her give it a go. Usually it’s because I would rather control the situation and not have another mess to clean up or send her to school in a crazy mismatched outfit that she picked out herself. Easier now – maybe – but I certainly would not be doing my daughter any favors by holding her back from being independent. The real challenge is determining when to step in versus taking a step back.
I had this very epiphany while enjoying a beautiful evening at the playground with my family. I should preface this by saying that this little girl of mine is quite adventurous. I call Caroline my monkey because for as long as she has been able to stand, she has had a complete fondness for climbing anything and everything. At this playground near our house, there is a decent sized rock structure with pegs for the kids to climb. In the past, Caroline wasn’t able to climb very high although she put forth a valiant effort. That is, until the other day. My husband was right there just in case she slipped and fell, but without so much as a tiny boost, she steadily climbed to the top. She did so while muttering to herself, “I can do this.”
As she reached the top, wearing one of the biggest grins her cute little mouth could make, I became a bit panicky. She had climbed higher than the top of my husband’s head (and he’s pretty darn tall). I was afraid she’d fall and he wouldn’t be able to catch her. While she climbed higher and higher, and farther from the ground, I did my best to not let on that I was nervous. I just kept telling her what a great job she was doing. I really was proud of her. Not because of how strong she was physically. It was so much more than that. I was proud of her determination and that no matter how many times prior to this day she was unable to reach the top, she didn’t give up.
As parents, it’s important that we are there to cheer our kids on and offer a boost when they need it. Not necessarily when we think they need it. I want my daughters to have the confidence to trust their abilities while knowing that mom and dad are there if they need us. So go ahead girls. Climb those mountains. Reach high for those dreams. No matter what, I’ll be right there cheering you on every step of the way!