I had lunch with a dear friend last week.  I’ve known her since I was 3 years old, and we’ve been both friends and teaching partners.  She’s one of those friends who you can pick up right where you left off no matter how long it has been.  Over a glorious lunch on a rare afternoon away, we began talking about our children (of course).

“He’s my baby,” I gushed to her about my youngest.  W is fifteen months old, but his bald little head, squishy cheeks, and wobbly body make him look much younger and I love it. I shared with her rather sheepishly that as I was spoon feeding him his oatmeal one morning, I remembered that he can do so much more for himself. I also confided that it can be a challenge to let go and hand over those opportunities.

“Jessica!” she exclaimed.

I know.  I know better, and I know that I know better.  The Montessori teacher and mom in me knows not only the importance of independence but also the dramatic change, growth, self-worth, and confidence that rise up from those opportunities.  I have taught this to other parents for goodness sake, and now here I was spoon feeding my very capable (but oh so squishy and cute) toddler!  As a fellow Montessori teacher herself, my friend had just become my accountability partner.

There is so much that we want to hold on to as parents.  Every phase and every stage that passes means our babies are growing up, and that feels hard. Don’t we all lament that we want them to stay little forever?  Certainly you never hear anyone say they can’t wait for their babies to grow up and be teenagers!

My friend, through her simple exclamation of my name, guided me back to the path I believe in walking with my children.  It’s a path where they are given the opportunity to participate in home life and self-care.  It’s a path where through these opportunities come powerful feelings and life changing affirmations:
“I can do this.”
“I can take care of myself.”
“Mommy and Daddy trust me enough.”
“I can solve my own problems”.

What does this look like on a practical level?  What is appropriate to expect of our children?  For our three year old we expect that she can:
Set her place  (fork/spoon and napkin)
Clear her place
Wipe up spills
Put her toothpaste on her toothbrush
Make her bed (pulling up the sheet and blanket)
Clean up toys
Push buttons on washing machine to help start cycle
Put toys in bath and then return them when finished
Dress herself and choose between two outfits

Our fifteen month old can:
Set and clear the table (carry a spoon and a napkin)
Wipe up spills
Feed himself with a fork or spoon
Put away toys
Follow one step commands (Ex. Put your cup back on the table, please.)
Put his clothes in the hamper
Bring us a diaper

These are just a few examples, and it obviously varies depending on your child, expectations, and environment.  The environment is critical in these independent endeavors. It must aid the child in increasing his independence not serve as a hindrance. I’ll cover that in more detail a few posts from now.

In the meantime, just so I can prove that he can, I’ve included a video of the said “baby” feeding himself at 10 months of age.  You can watch it here.

Find the joy-

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