My first child was my only child until she was almost four years old. That was a long time for Lyd to be my baby, and I couldn’t help but continue to treat her a bit like a baby even as she got older. I did a lot of things for her, things that most kids her age did on their own: getting herself dressed, getting potty trained, buckling herself into her car seat, even sometimes feeding herself, especially when it was a potentially messy meal like soup. I knew that I probably should be encouraging her to do those things, and to a small degree I did, but at the same time, I enjoyed the fact that she could still, in a small way, be my baby. She was my only child! I knew that eventually she would grow up and not want me to do those things for me anymore. And, I was right.
Now, with Jujubee, I’m finding myself in somewhat of the same situation. She’s three years old, and it’s likely she will be at least four years old by the time I have another baby, if I ever am so blessed. That’s a lot of time for her to be my baby (although she insists that she is NOT a baby – she is a BIG GIRL! :)) Jujubee wants to do more things on her own, mostly because she desperately wants to be like her big sister. But, there are still certain things that I have to help her with, and I’m glad to do it – most of the time.
Yet, I’m starting to feel like there are a few things she needs to be doing on her own, such as taking her pants up and down by herself when she needs to use her potty. This is a little trickier for her than for other kids her age, because she still has a lot of baby chubbiness to contend with, and that makes getting bottoms up and down a bit more tricky. But, I need to encourage her as much as I can. And, I know she can wash her hands all by herself, so I need to be patient and let her do that at her own pace. I think sometimes that’s the real problem – I have done things for my children myself, because I don’t want to wait the extra time that it takes for them to do it on their own.
Jujubee is extremely good at feeding herself; she was adept at using a spoon at a much earlier age than Lyd was. But I still feed her occasionally at mealtimes, because she can eat SO slowly! I suppose I should take a harder line with her and say “You have to sit there until you eat it by yourself,” but in my mind, that drags out the meal much longer, and I don’t want that. So, I feed her myself, if necessary, and if she won’t eat something on her own, she’ll almost always eat it if I feed her. And sometimes, it’s just a matter of cleanliness, such as tonight when we had turkey soup. The few bites she did take on her own went all down the front of her shirt, so I just fed her myself to avoid wasting the food.
One thing I have never regretted doing for my children is not teaching them to buckle themselves into their car seat until they are in a booster seat and can use a regular seat belt. I had heard horror stories of kids unbuckling themselves from their carseats while the car was moving, and I decided early on that I would avoid that by simply never teaching my kids how to buckle themselves in. So far, it’s worked pretty well.
One favorite thing that I have recently begun doing with/for Jujubee again is to take naps with her. Over the summer months, Jujubee rarely got an afternoon nap, but many days I could tell that she really needed one. Once the school year started, we got back into a routine, and I began to put her down for afternoon naps again, yet she rarely slept. She would happily play on the bed, singing songs and playing with the dolls that were with her, but she wouldn’t sleep. However, if we had somewhere to go after naptime that involved driving, she would inevitably fall asleep in the car. If we just stayed at home, she would inevitably have a meltdown in the late afternoon from exhaustion.
So, a few weeks ago, when I was finally realizing that my body was telling me that I needed some more sleep, I decided to try something new. I asked Jujubee if she would like to sleep with me in my bed; she happily agreed. We read a story together, snuggled for a bit, and then we went to sleep. With me being right there resting next to her, it helped her to see that napping is sleep time, so she’s started napping again. Hallelujah! It’s made a world of difference in our afternoons, and it’s helping me feel better, too. She doesn’t need a nap every afternoon, but I make it a point to lay down with her on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. She now likes to snuggle with me for a while (when she was a baby, she did not enjoy snuggling), and then we each roll over while keeping our backs or feet touching each other, and we go to sleep. It’s perfect. I suppose that technically she should nap on her own, but it is working really well for us.
I know that someday my kids are going to not want me to do anything for them anymore. So, it’s nice that I’ve been able to fully enjoy this aspect of their childhoods. I love my girls, and I love caring for them, and I’m glad to have been able to stretch that time out a little longer. It’s certainly a lovely silver lining in the cloud of struggling to get pregnant.