ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Parenting Perspectives: Doing my best by doing nothing

I stand idly by, thumbing the screen of my phone, while my daughter struggles to tie her shoes. I know what it looks like from the outside: that I'm a negligent mother, more interested in my digital life than my flesh-and-blood daughter. In reali...

I stand idly by, thumbing the screen of my phone, while my daughter struggles to tie her shoes.
I know what it looks like from the outside: that I’m a negligent mother, more interested in my digital life than my flesh-and-blood daughter.
In reality, in this moment, I’m being the absolute best mother I can be.
By doing absolutely nothing.
I’m in an odd stage of parenting, where both kids need me a little less than they ever have. And I need to encourage their self-sufficiency.
That’s why I turn to my phone as 6-year-old Eve works the laces of her sneakers, looping and re-looping bunny ears that turn out not quite right.
My hands itch to bend down and tie them for her. It’d be so much easier in this moment, but not in the long run.
It’s the same reason I’ve started encouraging the kids to run ahead of me on the bike path to the playground. I don’t hover as Owen climbs the slide. I stopped holding Eve’s waist as she swings across the monkey bars.
It’s why Owen’s pants are on backward as I write this.
It’s not always easy to stay hands-off in a world that has seen helicopter parenting become the norm.
When we went shoe shopping before the start of school, I had to shoo away the helpful sales associate who wanted to assist Eve with the laces. I needed to know if she could get them on all by herself before I bought the sneakers.
It isn’t easy to see her struggle. But her prideful reaction to completing the task is worth it.
When Eve asks me how to spell a word, I try to turn it back on her. “How do you think it’s spelled?” Instead of reading her a book, I ask her to read it to me.
And when Eve and Owen begin to bicker, I stay out of it. “Figure it out for yourselves,” I call out over the sounds of their squabble – at least until someone starts pulling hair.
I suppose that sort of response makes me seem uncaring, aloof or distracted. And certainly I’m guilty of distracted moments when I should have been paying more attention to my children than an electronic gadget.
But I believe intentional inattention – consciously ignoring them when the task is within their abilities – is in their best interest in the long run.
A highly debated parenting movement posits this idea, in a way. Free-range parenting is all about giving kids the freedom we had as kids, instead of constant adult supervision, without worrying about them.
I’m not ready to call myself a free-range parent yet. Columnist Lenore Skenazy, author of the book “Free-Range Kids,” let her 9-year-old son ride the New York City subway alone. I still walk Eve to the bus stop three houses down our street in Fargo.
But kids need to learn to do things for themselves. Not just to make life a little easier for mom – an added bonus, I admit – but to instill a sense of independence and encourage their self-esteem.
Nothing beats being able to “do it myself” when so much of the world is still out of reach.
Sherri Richards is mother to 6-year-old Eve and 3-year-old Owen and Business editor of The Forum. She can be reached at srichards@forumcomm.com

Related Topics: FAMILY
What To Read Next
New facility would be the only indoor park in North Dakota.
Six recipients from around the state recognized for cultural contributions.
Tickets are on sale for the concert
Read how the Beyond Dance program is building an inclusive dance space for children of all abilities.