I heard it all the time…
“You are still nursing? You better stop, he’s going to be too dependent.”
"He sleeps in your bed? That will make him too dependent.”
“You plan to homeschool? How will he learn any independence?”
It seemed to me that if I had listened to all these well meaning advice givers, as soon as the child had developed enough neck muscles to hold his head up, I was to kick him out and have him start earning his keep.
I couldn’t quite wrap my brain around the thought of too dependent, when in actuality, there was no way my babies could be more dependent. They were unable to walk, talk, eat, dress, or even burp without my help. The idea that I could make them more dependent than they already were was pretty ludicrous to me.
The only thing more ridiculous would be if someone were to walk up to a pregnant woman and demand she give birth immediately lest her child develop and unnatural dependence .
Given that it seemed my options were to send my two year old toddling out into the world to get a job, or to go ahead and ignore the concerned masses and continue to meet my child’s needs the way I saw fit, I went the need-meeting route.
It was a simple decision once I thought about independence and all that entails. I also watched that episode of Mad About You.
Mad About You was one of my favorite shows ever. Paul and Jamie reminded me so much of me and my husband. The did the things we liked to do, and spoke the way we spoke to each other (except that they had better scripts). They were us.. until they decided to” ferberize” their baby.
Ferberizing sounds to me more like something you would do to new upholstery than to a baby, but Paul and Jamie shot a whole commercial free episode where they sat outside Mabel’s nursery door while she cried herself to sleep. The kick in the stomach was when Mabel had finally given up and gone to sleep and her cries were no longer heard. Jamie looks sadly at Paul and says that they had just taught their daughter that they wouldn’t always be there for her.
This is not the lesson we ever wanted to pass on to our kids. I want my kids to know that we will always be there for them. Even if we aren’t in the same house, city, state or country, we will always be just a phone call away, at the ready with a pep talk, an attaboy, or even just an attentive ear.
Fortunately, right now, they are still far too dependent on us, sponging off us for meals and lodging while they finish high school. And I can see that they may well be dependent on us. But I also see that this dependence is what helps them be independent.
I sense your confusion. Let me ‘splain.
The very idea that my children know that they can rely on me and my husband, gives them courage to move out and try new things. They are not afraid to fail, because they know we will be there to catch them should they fall.
In much the same way, my Heavenly Father is also always there for me. I know if He asks me to do something, I can do it because He is always with me, supporting me.
Child care guru, Penelope Leach, said it best: Independence comes from having dependent needs completely met.
My job is not to make my children independent. My job is to let them know they can depend on me, and therefore find independence.