Children begin to exercise their independence at a very young age. When they are only a few months old, they start to test their boundaries. They experiment to see what things they can do for themselves like grabbing a toy, sitting up on their own and clapping their hands. As parents, and surrounding adults, we cheer and applaud, which of course encourages them to stretch those muscles farther to see what else they can do on their own. When they stumble and fall we are right beside them. We pick them off, dust them off and encourage them to try again. If they are ever hesitant, they look our way for a reassuring smile and that’s all it takes for them to keep going. We are proud parents as we watch them develop and grow, knowing at this age they will always come running back into our open arms. Children are dependently independent.
When it comes to raising a child, everyone has an opinion and most of the time, everyone wants to share that opinion with you. A small child is like a magnet, especially the grocery store, to strangers offering you advice they believe you cannot live without. As if that were not enough, you can go online and get advice from social media or millions of other “resources” available on the web. Advice and help are everywhere.
In my work with parents I’ve seen two scenarios. The first is the parent who takes everyone’s advice. This parent is so open to advice that they readily change course with every new study that comes from a trusted friend, family member or news source. The other scenario involves the parent who believes they don’t need help and/or no one can tell them something they don’t already know. This same group also includes the parent who is afraid to ask for advice because they feel like they should already “know” how to parent.
If you think about it, advice is a funny thing – too much and you can be swimming in a sea of cluttered confusion, unsure of which direction to go. While on the other hand, too little advice and you are swimming in a sea of resolute isolation, possibly confident your way is the right way, but there is no lifeboat in sight if you need help. In both instances you are swimming in an environment that is far from ideal.
We were not meant to go through this life on our own. We are given a family to support us, a personality to make friends and a community of neighbors to surround us. People are social beings. We are meant to help each other and offer advice, especially in situations where one person has already experienced what the other is going through.
I don’t think we ever outgrow being dependently independent. No matter how old we get, having a parent/spouse/friend on the sidelines cheering for you, ready to pick you up and dust you off as you stretch your muscles of independence is vital. The accomplishment is all your own, but having the support of those around you, is priceless.
Comment below or mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and share your thoughts one what it means to you to be dependently independent.
I started writing this blog because I wanted to have deeper conversations beyond "How are you?", "Busy", with other parents. Over the years I've shared personal stories, articles, authors and topics to facilitate conversations with parents about the joys and the challenges of parenting.