Change is hard. Even when you are two. Last night we took the railing off of Tiny-Small’s crib and turned it into a “big girl” bed. At first she was ecstatic. She climbed in and out of it. She pretended to be asleep and then to wake up…over and over and over again. She wanted to sit in her bed and drink. She wanted to eat in her bed. I said no to that one. It all seemed to be going smoothly. It was going way too easily, actually, which should have set off some alarm bells in my head, now that I am looking back on it.
Last night when Tiny-Small went to bed she cried. She said she was scared. She didn’t want to fall out. She missed the railings. She wanted her bed back like it had always been. I had put one of those pool noodles under her sheets to act as a sort of soft railing on the open side. I’d seen that genius idea on Pinterest. It doesn’t work, by the way, so don’t bother buying a pool noodle for your toddlers bed. It wasn’t as genius as it seemed. I sat with her until she got sleepy and told her she would be fine. That the noodle would keep her from falling out. She finally fell asleep. She trusted me. She believed I knew what I was doing.
An hour later we heard a loud crash followed by crying. We ran into Tiny Small’s room and found her crying by the door. She had fallen out. She was scared. I felt horrible. I’d pretty much promised she would be safe. I knew my promise was not going to have the same weight it once did. We comforted her as best as we could and got her back in bed. She wanted the rails back on. So, we got out the tools and put the railing back on. We told her we’d try again later. She fell asleep immediately. All of her anxiety was gone.
Tiny-Small doesn’t like change. Change is hard for her. She needs several warnings before change occurs and she needs a lot of time to adjust once a change is made. She also needs to understand how the change is beneficial to her before she fully embraces it. All of this takes time and patience. We’ve been potty training for a while now. She has the concept down. She can use the potty like an expert. The problem is she doesn’t always want to. Sometimes she wants the comfort of doing things the old way. Sometimes she just wants her diaper back on.
As her parent, I want to tell people she is sleeping in her big girl bed and beam with pride at her accomplishments and my ability to parent my child. I want to stop buying diapers and brag about how she practically potty trained herself. As a human being, I am trying to respect the process she needs to go through to accept these changes. I am trying to allow her the time and space to adjust and to grow up at her own pace. She needs to get comfortable with new things. I am trying to put my competitive nature aside and to follow her lead.
I question my choices daily. Am I being too easy on her? Should I have higher expectations? Is she going to struggle as an adult because it takes her so long to change? Would my forcing her to change really make her better at it? Am I being a bad parent by letting her set the pace for her learning? Would I be a bad parent if I didn’t?
Change is hard. It’s hard for me too. I grew up in an authoritarian home. I was afraid of my parents. I wasn’t given time to adjust to change or to the demands placed on me. My feelings and opinions did not count in decision-making. As an adult, with these life experiences, I’ve made the decision to be more of an authoritative parent. I have to stay conscious of this decision at all times because in times of stress it is easy to revert back to the models you grew up with. It’s easy to become impatient, bossy, and demanding. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that my daughter is a person with thoughts and feelings of her own. That her developmental progress (or sometimes lack of it) is not a reflection of me. That I cannot take credit for her above average vocabulary any more than I can take credit for her slow acceptance of using the potty.
At the same time I worry about becoming too permissive of a parent. Am I letting Tiny-Small call too many shots? Is using the potty or sleeping in a certain kind of bed something I should have a lot of rules about? It gets a little murky at times. I mean, should I expect her to grow up faster than she wants to? Some people will say yes. Some people will tell me to throw away the diapers and remove the crib railing. To let her rage and cry and work through her anxiety. That she will emerge stronger and with more confidence on the other side. Some will say to let her accept these changes in her own time. That forcing it won’t work. That she will do it happily when she is ready. That allowing her to do these things at her own pace will help her build confidence in her ability to learn new things, help her have more self-acceptance and help her learn to trust her own judgement.
I guess I fall more on the side of letting things happen naturally, but that doesn’t mean I don’t question my choices or my motives at every turn. I still worry about being a parent and doing the right thing. Am I just being lazy because it is easier to let her figure things out in her own time? Do I just want to reduce her crying or shield her from stress and pain? Am I being a dreaded helicopter parent by rescuing her from her own anxiety? I don’t always trust my own judgement as much as I should. Of course, that is a symptom of growing up in an authoritarian home. I want my daughter to grow up with more confidence and to trust her own instincts more than I do. I want her to be more secure in her own person than I am.
I just hope that the fact that I grapple with these ideas about parenting mean something. That by actually thinking about it I will be a good parent. That I will do the right thing and make mostly good decisions. That my daughter will grow up happy, and strong, and capable.
I will probably always have anxiety about parenthood. I’m a lot like Tiny-Small. It takes me a while to adjust. Change is hard for me too. Maybe by the time she is 25 I will have more confidence in my own decision making and embrace the parenting style I have chosen with open arms and few regrets.
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