Independence — by Laura Houston
My son Lyle started walking at 10 months. He’s an agile kid. Strong. Fast. Determined. He is physically advanced, and I have known this since I first felt his fluttering and then furious kicks during my pregnancy. His twin brother Wyatt has always been more contemplative, and not as anxious to crawl, walk, roll over or do much other than study things very, very carefully. But something changed at 14 months for Wyatt. He got tired of sitting and looking. He wanted to walk, and he wanted it badly. So he practiced. Obsessively. He took laps around our living room holding on to furniture to steady himself, and he calculated his moves carefully.
When we went to the park, I held Wyatt’s hand and let him walk with me, or I would put him against the fence so he could hold on and walk back and forth over the grass, sticks, bark and uneven terrain. He was thrilled with his developing skill, and it changed his personality, making him more confident, more determined, more joyful. However, as we practiced in the park sometimes the people watching would say to me, “You’ll be sorry once he starts walking, too. It just makes it harder when you have two of them to chase.”
And I would think to myself, “Really? I’m going to be sorry once he gains more independence and becomes a happier baby?” I have never understood how some parents can sacrifice what’s best for the child just to make things easier on them. I’m not talking about safety here. I don’t let my boys play in the kitchen even though they are desperate to get to any sharp, shiny object they can find in the cabinets. But when it comes to things like walking, running, climbing, and rough and tumble play, well, I’m all for it even though I have to referee more and watch more closely. Autonomy for anyone is good.
Since becoming a mother, I have lost a great deal of my independence. I miss being able to walk wherever I want to walk, and to go where I want to go when I want to go there. I mourn it every day when I am packing up the stroller with diapers, wipes, toys, water, snacks, sunscreen and every other accoutrement the boys might need on our journey out. I find the schlepping of baby stuff to be maddening. I hate that it takes me half an hour to get out the door some days just to go on a 15-minute errand. I miss my simple freedom dearly. I want my kids to have what I do not right now.
Parents of older children also dole out this nugget of wisdom to me: “Enjoy it while you can. It goes by so fast. In the blink of an eye. Next thing you know they’ll be in college.” And again I want to say, “Really? Because these past 14 months have lasted forever, and I can’t imagine in going any slower.” It’s true. Being the mother of twins means non-stop movement. Not-stop doing. Non-stop watching, listening….everything. I wouldn’t mind if it flew by sometimes.
That’s not to say I don’t love it. I do. I savor the moments because I know they don’t last. But I don’t want my boys to remain babies. I love watching them grow up and move away from needing me. Lyle won’t let me feed him any more with a spoon. Great. I’m OK with that even though I have prepare his oatmeal with less milk so it’s thick enough to roll into little balls he can pick them up and pop in his mouth. I’m OK with the additional baby proofing I have to do to keep them both safe. They’re growing independence does, indeed, create more work for me right now. But it won’t be more work down the line.
Parenting is hard work. It’s supposed to be. And it’s a sacrifice again and again and again, and I fall willingly into most of the time. I know it won’t last forever. I certainly do not want it to. I enjoy watching the boys learn things that may make my life more complex today if it means it will get easier tomorrow. That’s why every time I see the boys take a step closer to being independent, I see myself as getting closer to it, too. And I breathe just a little easier. Just a little.