We bring home these beautiful and precious babies. We love them, nurture them, trying our hardest to fulfill their every need. We stare at them for hours on end, looking for signs of connection. We are thrilled when they make the tiniest bit of progress. They grow and change daily, learn and delight us.
So, it stands to reason that we are shocked when, only months later, they start saying “No!” and suddenly aren’t cooperating. WHAT HAPPENED??!
We continue trying the same things that were working just last week. Nope. It seems completely counterintuitive to be the “boss” when we hadn’t needed to be. Until now. It feels wrong, unnatural. But, alas, it isn’t.
Our job is to try to keep pace with where they are in their development. And not to blame ourselves, or them, when we just don’t understand what’s happening at any given moment.
At some point early on, and because we’ve done a good job, they will pull away slightly. I remember reading that when we are holding our infants, the first sign of individuation, or separation, is when they arch back. Maybe. It makes a certain amount of sense to me.
These states of holding and letting go, remain part of our relationship with our children forever after. They need to separate, and we participate in that dance from the start. We are hard-wired to hold on, and have to learn when to let go, bit by bit. They are hard-wired to do the same.
That is all to say, that when they start asserting themselves, this is a new level of separation. The trick is not to take it personally, but to see it for what it is. We need to repeatedly work on removing or minimizing the idea/thought that we need to bend them to our will, and to respect their need to separate.
I break it down to what we feel is reasonable or unreasonable. Do they need to get dressed in warm clothes when they go out into the cold? Should they be allowed to keep throwing food on the floor, even when they’re two years old? Vs., do they need to finish every single bite of food on their plate, or like the same things we do? Can they pick out their own clothes even though we think they look silly? Can they make their beds, imperfectly? There are thousands of possible scenarios, but you get the picture. When my daughter was little, I used to hear “Pick your battles.” I guess that is a good way to express this.
On the other hand, they need to win some of these “battles.” And we need to teach them what’s important, and what can be negotiated, or let go of.
We can keep adoring them, even when they frustrate us. That never needs to change.