One of the bigger challenges I feel I face as a parent is trying to balance between pushing the twins out of their comfort zones and encouraging independence – while also trying to be supportive and provide an emotional safety net for them. And I know that as they get older, this won’t get any easier.
I thought of this recently when I took the boys out for a run with me. Ty rode his bike while Stone rode his scooter. During the run I alternate between pushing Stone on his scooter and encouraging him to push himself. Truthfully, for much of the run I end up pushing him along and enjoy the experience (and extra workout) simply because I treasure having an activity we can share together. I don’t want to be so hard core that I make the experience too much work for him and then have him start resisting when I suggest going for a run together. But on the other hand, I do want him to get exercise and also not rely on me 100%. So I make sure during flat stretches that Stone uses his legs to push himself and pull his weight for at least a portion of our 4-5 mile loop.
I know that many other parents struggle with similar issues. As our kids get older they become more independent – usually on their own. And suddenly our roles shift from being someone they rely on for everything to someone who needs to encourage and support them as they explore their independence. This is a transition too many parents struggle with unfortunately – even as their kids become teens and then young adults. And I get it. There is something extremely powerful and magical about that level of responsibility and connection with your kids. And lets face it, we live in a world that can be scary and unpredictable. We want to protect our kids.
But I’m trying to take the long term view as much as possible when it comes to the boys. This is one of the key reasons why all of the therapy and extra support we’re providing Stone is so vital and critical in my opinion. I want him to learn the tools to become more independent so that as he transitions into adulthood, he is as prepared as possible and minimally dependent on us or others to succeed and grow in life.
Even though Stone now weighs 85 pounds (and Ty 75 pounds) I still pick them up and hold them – or give them piggy back rides. I joke with both of them that I won’t be able to do either very much longer so I’m going to enjoy every day and moment I’m still able to do so. For me there is still nothing as powerful as holding my son in my arms – and its a feeling I will remember long after they become fully grown teens and adults. So as silly as it seems for me to give Stone a piggy back ride upstairs every night when it’s bedtime, I’m still doing it – for now. He’s still just a boy and I want he and his brother to enjoy as much as possible about being a child. I feel there is far too much pressure and emphasis in society to force kids to grow up too quickly in many ways.
So where does the pushing come into play? I try to do it in little ways. When we’re swimming, I back up while Stone is swimming to make him work harder and swim better (instead of just letting him hang on me all the time in the pool). When we’re hanging out together I make him repeat his words so that he works on his enunciation. When he’s using his iPad, I turn off his videos and make him try new apps with me – or practice flash card words. When I list these out, I realize that I probably need to be pushing him even more than I am now. I know this is how he’ll grow.
With Ty its a different kind of challenge because he’s already naturally ambitious, curious and competitive. He wants to do better in nearly every activity he attempts – and gets extremely frustrated if he falls short of his expectations. He’s also a major control freak, so we’re working with him constantly to try to be more flexible with his expectations of others and activities and to try to go with the flow more in life. This will be a constant struggle, I know.
My ultimate goal for both boys is that I want them each to have the confidence and desire to tackle new endeavors on their own as they progress through life. And I know that one of the best ways to make this happen is to provide them with emotional support now as they struggle through failures along with their successes. As I said earlier, its certainly not always easy – especially when you see your child struggling in certain areas. But I also know that those who become strongest as adults are often those who learned how to conquer major obstacles while growing up. And I hope that I’m also helping my sons grow that strength to succeed.