Ah parenthood. We start out with this baby who is completely dependent on us. Completely. This baby could not live without us. With our first baby, this is probably pretty shocking and takes some adjustment, but considering the huge change we are making to life, we adjust relatively quickly and accept and even enjoy this neediness.
Some of us enjoy it too much.
Or enjoy aspects of it too much.
Or perhaps some of us are just a little bit of control freaks who can't let go of things. We might not really WANT to do everything ourselves, but to let a child help out would definitely mean an inferior result and we just can't allow ourselves to go there.
Typically when I talk about this idea, I am led to discuss it in relation to cleaning things. I encourage you to let your child clean now and in a few years, you will be enjoying real, contributing help from your child. If you want some pep talk in this area, see these posts:
I have clearly pounded that topic sufficiently (but no promises that I won't talk about it again because I am SUPER passionate about it).
And I still have to tell myself to let my children help. I recently had my children snapping green beans so I could can them (bottle them-preserve them). Nice helpers, but not quite efficient and keeping as much of the bean there as possible. Ack! I need as much as possible so I have as much as possible in my food storage...but they need to learn--for more than just the physical reasons. And so I tell myself in my head to let it go.
Okay, so not only do we need to let go our control issues over physical, tangible things in our homes go, we need to let go of our control issues over our children's lives.
And yes, I have talked about this one, too:
I recently read a quote that brought this all up in my mind again.
"...in our efforts to help, we may actually hurt them. The Lord has taught us the need to promote self-reliance. Even if we are able to help, we should not give or provide what they can and should do for themselves." -Stanley G. Ellis
This quote can be applied in a lot of circumstances, but as a mother with young children, I immediately thought of how this quote applies to me as a mother to my children.
I should not give or provide what they can and should do for themselves.
At what point do I need to relinquish some control that I am clinging to?
I don't think this question has an easy answer. It isn't, "At age 8, your child can handle riding his bike to a friend's house a mile away on his own." Maybe he can. Maybe he can't. Some can and some can't. But our task as parents is to recognize when HE CAN and then ALLOW it to happen. It is about the child, not about you. Otherwise, in your efforts to help, you might actually hurt him.
It would be easier if there were some master list of what freedoms to allow at certain ages. And by "it" I mean parenting in general. Even parenting a one year old would be easier if we had a checklist we could go through that told us what the child can handle and what she can't. But that list doesn't exist because Every child, family, parent, and situation is different. Safety and community are different. And you can't even just go off of what you or your husband did as kids because the world is a very different place. When we were young, we basically had to seek out trouble if we wanted it. In our current day, trouble seeks out our children.
And that statement might make you want to keep your eye on your child at all times, but you still need to relinquish control. You need to teach your child how to "fish." You know the quote, "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime." This applies to your child, also.
Teach your child how to navigate life (aka fish) so he can eat for a lifetime! Don't keep catching his fish for him daily. He needs to learn how to do it himself. He needs to learn how to judge situations. Teach him how and then let him do it. At some point, you will lose that control whether you give it up willingly or not. So teach and let go so your child has the tools he needs to navigate when he leaves.