Relax, I tell myself.
Don’t nitpick, I tell myself.
But I have such a difficult time letting my 3-year-old boy just be a 3-year-old boy.
He’s silly and rambunctious and I love all of that about him. But as
his mother, it’s my job to rein him in when I can. To keep him from
jumping off the arm of the sofa or to keep him from hanging the upper
half of his body out the open window of his upstairs bedroom.
And I do all that, but sometimes I let it carry over. I become so
caught up in disaster prevention that I forget to stop and take a step
back and realize that him turning on the hose to spray his legs — and
most of the sidewalk — clean is not a big deal. He’s having fun and it’s
only water and it is not a big deal.
I think we’ve spent the winter too close to each other. I’ve been
around to monitor his every move, to let him know that it’s probably not
a good idea to stand in the refrigerator with the door open looking for
something to eat. Or maybe he should let me plug his night light back
into the outlet instead of trying to do it himself.
So I say no a lot. All day. Between him and his sister, it’s the
most-heard word in our house, second only to the phrase “Don’t do that.”
And I don’t want to be that person. I miss being the fun one. I want to
tell him I have a wicked sense of humor, I am adventurous and totally
understand the need to take apart all your toys just to see what they’re
like inside. I understand the joy in ripping up paper or dumping dirt
in the kiddie pool.
But I have to be the adult, the parent, the mother. And it sucks.
But in less than four months my son will be 4 and far, far away from
being my little baby, my firstborn. Already he can dress himself, which
he could have been doing for a while if only I had relaxed that control.
And he knows to close the bathroom door upstairs when my youngest goes
up there, so I don’t have to run and do it myself.
He’s helpful, kind and mature and so smart it takes my breath away.
And so I need to let go, just a little bit. I need to unclench my
shoulders and learn to say yes more. I need to let him have fun in his
own way, even if it makes more of a mess for me to take care of later. I
need to give him the freedom to be a little boy, to grow up without a
mother who is constantly looking over his shoulder, telling him he’s
doing something he’s not supposed to. I need to let him take more
responsibility for himself.
And even if his clothes don’t match or his shoes are on the wrong feet,
I will not tell him he needs to change. I will tell him how proud I am
of him for doing such a good job.
I will tell him how proud I am to be the mother of such a bold, courageous little guy.
*This column originally published in The News-Enterprise on March 28, 2012.