Several times a day, my three-year-old says “I did it all by myself, Mom.” He takes off his clothes at bath time…all by himself. He opens the front door to check on his pet praying mantis…all by himself. He gets up in the night to use the potty…all by himself. When he really wants to rub it in, he says “I not need you anymore, Mom.”
Can you hear my heart breaking?
One of the central challenges of leadership and parenting is getting beyond the need to be needed. Constantly, crucially needed.
Of course it feels good to take care of others. And small babies need us to do most things for them. They lack any measure of self-sufficiency. If you doubt that, ask the mom of a newborn baby that needs to be fed, burped, diapered, and soothed to sleep. Keep in mind that newborns do little besides eat, sleep, and poop – and parents help with most of it!
But how quickly they become independent.
My almost-five-month old baby is a champion sleeper. She goes to bed uneventfully by 8 p.m. and wakes up gurgling at about 6:20 a.m. She’s been doing this since about 3 months old.
Now, I’m not bragging, just sharing. Please, sleep-deprived comrades in parenting, don’t hate me because I am well-rested. Lest you think I’ve cracked the code on sleep training, let me proclaim to the blogosphere: her successful sleeping has nothing to do with me. Nothing. Zilch. Zero.
She sleeps through the night because she soothes herself back to sleep when she wakes up. She puts her index and middle fingers in her mouth, sucks noisily (seriously, you can hear her in the hallway), and back to sleep she goes. Leading Man says that a two-finger salute is baby speak for “I don’t need you anymore, Mom.” My heart would break were it not for the deliciously uninterrupted sleep this affords me.
I believe good leaders encourage others to build skills and act autonomously, even when the results are not immediately perfect. Then they offer guidance on how to improve. And good parents do the same.
So, if you see my three-year-old wearing his shoes on the wrong feet, please don’t tell him. He still needs me to do that.