Every now and then something happens that radically reshapes the way I think about parenting. The most recent change moment occur ed when my mom was talking about my brother, Jarrett. He's a teenager now and she was lamenting how frustrating it was to reteach the same old lessons - clothes off the floor, towels hung to dry, kitchen counters wiped down, etc. She shared that it helped her to think of him as an "adult in training." Rather than expecting him to already be good at everything, she found that she could cut him some slack if she thought about the day to day struggles as his learning process.
A light went off in my head. That's what the WG is too. Okay, she's only four and she's well behind Jarrett in her journey, but she's starting on the path. There was a time when my job was to comfort her, nourish her and meet her every need. But now were at a transition moment. My new job is to help her learn essential life skills. Still the foundation of comfort, love and caring must be there; but I also need to give her increasing responsibilities and guide her through these new lessons.
I'll give you an example. She's been in PreK for a few weeks now. This is at "big girl school" a PreK through grade 12 school, and she stays through lunch for the first time. She takes a lunch box each day. The first couple of weeks I packed her lunch every night, assembling various items, cutting her sandwiches into heart shapes, etc. But she's really capable of doing this herself. She can't put peanut butter on the bread, but she can assemble the lunch pail.
So I've set up a lunch box station in our fridge. She selects something from each of four boxes - one that's dairy/fiber, one protein, one fruit or vegetable, and one treat. She also chooses a napkin and packs a spoon if she needs it. It's been a wonderful experience for both of us.
First, she's learned to make choices in the morning and live with them in the afternoon. She's in charge - so there's no one to complain to when she decides she doesn't want that peanut butter and jelly sandwich today. Plus, she's gotten to learn how important a spoon is to applesauce, and she's getting some guided practice at balancing her meals. The best part - she's so pleased with herself! She really enjoys telling the teacher and other kids that she made her own lunch. It makes her feel like a big girl and gives her ownership over one aspect of her life. And she's ready for that bit of ownership.
There will be so many more lessons. So many more baby steps to get to that adult. And I am so enjoying getting to know her along the way. Maybe by the time she calls herself "adult," I'll be able to call myself "parent" rather than "parent-in-training."