I live with two of them. A big one and a big one in training.
I will leave you to decide who is who.
They exhaust, amaze and consume my heart, often all at the same time. I spend my days tidying toys, books and magazines away. I return socks and underpants to the laundry basket they were intended to reach. I wipe surfaces clean. I help them both fasten tricky buttons and straighten shirts. I prepare home-cooked meals. I clear empty plates away. I unload and reload the dishwasher. I put the toilet seat back down. I listen to fart jokes and pretend to find them funny. I am third in line for the remote control, the shower and the sofa. ALWAYS.
When I went to NYC, I admit I was worried how they would cope without me. Obviously, the Greek God(zilla) is perfectly capable; however he does not know the day-to-day routine as well as I do, whereas our son knows it a little too well!
I need not have worried. Everything ran smoothly and they both had a wonderful time hanging out together under ‘Daddy House Rules’. I think my being away also helped the Greek God(zilla) to realise just how challenging it can be to juggle being a work from home parent with meetings, school runs, after school activities, playdates, homework, school admin, shopping, cooking, laundry and housework. Sometimes the line between home and work life can become blurry. And, finding the right balance can look easier on paper.
So, since I have been back, I have decided it’s good for them to do a bit more for themselves.
Especially my big boy in training. That’s the 5-year old, as opposed to the 45-year old.
One day he himself will be a man and I need to know I am sending him out into the world, and into the arms of another, knowing how to look after himself.
For 5-years, I’ve watched him grow and develop. I’ve shed tears of pride over his first word, first steps and first poo in the potty. I have taught him to feed himself, to drink from a cup and to wipe his own bum (I know his future partner will thank me for this one!). I have hovered over kids climbing frames while he mastered his technique.
When he became fascinated with dinosaurs, we arranged day trips to the Natural History Museum and Dinosaur Wildlife Park. When he moved on to planets and the solar system, we visited the planetarium and watched the sky at night. He is a great companion. He is learning to read the books he loves so much, to ride his bike in the park, and to swim in the deep end of the pool.
He loves to build things – Lego, towers, caves. He loves to create things – paintings, cakes, mess.
He has many varied interests and we encourage him to explore them. We are sensible with his screen time and about what he eats and drinks. We spend a lot of family time together, doing things to stimulate and capture his imagination. I think I am being a good guardian of his social development in this respect.
But, in other ways, I still totally baby him. I place food on the table, already cut up into manageable bite-sized pieces and when he has finished, I clear it all away. I load his toothbrush with paste and supervise cleaning. I wash and brush his hair. I flick TV channels on the remote for him. I fetch toys from different rooms. I cover him with a blanket when it’s cold. I pick out clothes for him to wear in the morning. I zip up his coat and help him into his shoes. I even carry his book bag to school.
Yep. I’m a pushover. Or, maybe it’s because it is easier if I do it for him. Perhaps he has inherited lazyitis. It’s definitely not that he will always be my baby and I want him to still need me… Nooooo, it’s not that at all (OBVS it is a bit of that).
Either way, I think it is time he started to have a little more responsibility for himself, so Project Independence has begun!
Bearing in mind he is still only 5, we have started by making just a few small changes.
Yesterday, he put his own Weetabix in a bowl and poured his own milk on top. I resisted taking the spoon and mashing it all up together, and handed it over for him to do instead. He then poured his own juice, buttered his own toast, spread his own jam and sliced the bread in half. When he had finished eating his breakfast, I asked him to take his plate into the kitchen and put it on the side… and he did!
So far, so good.
Upstairs, I let him squeeze his own toothpaste on to his toothbrush and clean his own teeth unaided. He picked his own clothes out, dressed himself and brushed his own hair in front of the mirror. HEART. MELT.
‘What can I do next, Mummy?’ he asked excitedly.
Make your bed…? I suggested tentatively. Then, off he went to make his bed. He even placed Bear at the top, next to his pillow, just as I do.
He retrieved his own shoes from the rack, put them on his own feet, zipped his own coat and carried his own book bag to school.
After school, he put a discarded banana skin in the food bin rather than pass it to me, or just lay it to rest on the carpet. Hoorah!
In the bath later, I put a blob of shampoo in his hand so he could lather his own hair. He then wanted to rinse it off himself under the shower.
I did not know why I hadn’t thought of implementing this independence plan sooner – he was brilliant at it!
I hopped out of bed this morning and as he followed me downstairs, I started talking about even more independent things we could try.
To which he replied ‘WHAAAAAT?! It’s not Independence Day again today is it?’ before slumping on the sofa and asking me to fetch him a blanket.