Written October, 2009
My daughter is two years old, and she’s been independent from the day she could crawl in her own direction. Even then, before she could talk, she picked out her own clothes with low grunts at correct choices and loud screams at wrong ones. She would crawl over to the closet, pointing at a particular sweater, and make clear her passion for fashion. “Lily do it by self” is a phrase I hear every half hour at least, and it applies to most tasks: taking off her diaper, getting dressed, getting in the bath, getting out of the bath, walking to the car, getting in the car, getting strapped in her car seat, getting out of the car. You get the idea. And it has led to many showdowns between her and me when we don’t have time for her to “do it by self.” At Target, at Wal-mart, in our driveway, in our house, at friends’ homes, in crazy Twister-like positions in which we’ve found ourselves during a diaper change. Lily’s independence can wear me out.
I try to remember that someday her independence will serve her well. I prayed against fear for my little girl as soon as I knew I had one brewing. As a child, and an adolescent, and as an early adult, I was full of fear. I let my fears stop me from doing so many things. I let them rule my actions for a long time in many ways, and I didn’t want that for my little girl. I want her to embrace life and meet challenges with the belief that it’s alright to fail, but you have to try to get anywhere at all. That she is worth it because she’s a human being, with thoughts and feelings just as valid as anyone else’s. That she was born for a reason.
I’ve wanted all of this for my daughter, but apparently I didn’t realize I’d be the one dealing with the day-to-day development of a fearless woman. It seems ironic that I fretted about her courage when she jumps off a jungle gym into nothingness, or when her determination to eat play dough far exceeds her fear of the consequences. I got what I asked for, but I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into.
And then the other day she didn’t want to eat by herself. She is perfectly capable of eating her cereal with a spoon (that was something she knew she could “do by self” before she actually could), but for some reason the other day she decided she couldn’t. We have now entered a new stage of “ I need help,” and I’m not sure I like it any better. I was surprised at my reaction to those words. All those days we went head-to-head over who was the adult, and when she said she needed help eating her cereal I immediately feared (there it is again) she had lost her gumption. It’s ridiculous, I know, but it reveals how deep down my desire is for Lily to have confidence. And how, even though it is hard to deal with her growing into that confidence, it’s a noble task worth doing.
I’m sure this is only a regressive phase – that soon enough she’ll jump headlong back into her independent ways. It’s in her nature, and I’m glad. But for now, I’m going to enjoy her need of me, knowing it will be short-lived, and remember that I asked for this. And pray that my little warrior will use her powers for good someday, and watch what she becomes.