Sunday, February 8, 2009

The (almost) Self-Parenting Child

Several years ago, when we were new parents, we were visiting with some friends who had two teenage daughters and a younger son, about 9 or 10 at the time. We asked them how raising him was different from the girls. The dad's answer has always stuck with me and made me giggle. He told us, "He's pretty much self-parenting. He does all his work without being told. He even taught himself to ride his bike."

I've said in the past few weeks that our younger child is ALMOST self-parenting. At least in HER mind. These past 2 weeks when I was sick, she managed to get up and find something to eat before I got up. Then she pulled out her schoolwork and did what she needed to do. When I "caught" her doing math, I went to sit by her, knowing there were new ideas we hadn't discussed yet. She said, "I can do this by myself!" Uh-huh. Okay.

In addition to being "self-parenting" (almost) she tends to be sister parenting as well. Considering that her sister has Asperger Syndrome, or mild autism, the younger child is, in some ways, more mature than her older sister. However, her older sister IS the older sister and wants to have that role. This evening when I dropped them off for AWANA (a church group), I was walking with them to their room. I've always done this. Bethany hates game time, and that's the first part of their time, so I usually stay with them. After we checked in at the desk, Natalie turned to me and said, "Mom, you don't HAVE to take us to game time." Bethany looked at me longingly, and Natalie said, "Bethany, Daddy dropped us off last week and you were just fine." She then reached out to take her sister's arm & drag her to class. Bethany balked at that, but she waved and went without me. Do I sigh or do I shout in jubilation?

Now, about that word, "almost." While Natalie THINKS she is self-parenting, she isn't. She still needs me to teach her much in the homeschooling area. She can heat up pizza rolls in the microwave, but she can't use the stove or oven without me. She doesn't wash her own clothes or dishes (I think she needs to learn to be MORE self-sufficient in THOSE areas!). She still needs to learn a lot about her "Natitude" (the pre-teen attitude that she was born with). She still needs a lap to sit on, a shoulder to cry on, and someone to read to her at bedtime. She still needs hugs and kisses that only a Mommy or Daddy can give.

We'll let her think she is (almost) self-parenting. But, when it's all said & done, we know the truth.

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