Loud ‘n Proud: Independence is Messy

mummy's shoesTheoretically, this whole business of bringing up children is all about teaching them to be independent.

Is it bad that I kind of like them being dependent? Or rather, I would love them to be independent, but I severely dislike all the hassle of getting them there.

The other day I was at a friend’s house, and we fell silent when her nearly 3 year old wandered into where we were chatting, carrying a cup of milk.

“Did you get that yourself?” my friend asked him.

“Yeah,” he told her (to rhyme with “Duh”), sipping his milk.

When we had both finished having retrospective heart attacks, my friend told me that her sons do this more and more often now: they open the fridge, rummage around and pour themselves drinks.

Mine don’t, I thought. I squash that kind of initiative as soon as I see the thought developing in the Boy’s mind. I picture a lake of milk on the kitchen floor that I will need to clean up – and I hate cleaning. Carrying food or drinks around the house? No way, too much opportunity for spillage and breakage. Getting things out of cupboards? Nope. My cupboards are messy and precariously stacked – pulling the wrong item out in the wrong way will cause an avalanche. Let Mummy do it.

The more I thought about it, the more I realised that my children moving from stage to stage, gaining independence, doing things for themselves terrifies me. I get used to the status quo, fit my life around it, and then they go and change things up and mess up my systems. This goes for the Boy at pre-school age, and doubly so for my little girl, who is nearly two.

I like carrying the Girl up and down the stairs, strapping her into her booster seat at the table, putting her in a corner with her Mannies and letting her

Please. Just sit here and play.

Please. Just sit here and play.

play while I work. I like it when she drinks out of sippy cups and eats everything I put in front of her. I like dressing and undressing her, scooping her up and plonking her in the car so we can leave the house ten minutes before we need to collect the Boy from pre-school. I like her sleeping in her cot.

But the time for these things is fading.

Lopen! [walk]” she insists and wriggles out of my arms. She wants to walk herself.

“Stairs!” she shouts, and I am not even allowed to hold the doll or the big book she wants to carry down with her as she takes step by reckless step.

Klimmen! [climb]” she shrieks, and I have to put her down next to the car and tear my hair out as she first winds down her window, then painfully slowly, slipping and getting a better grip, she clambers into her car seat herself and we tear down country lanes and arrive breathlessly at pre-school, catching the teacher with the phone in her hand ready to call and find out where I am.

“Open! Juicy!” she commands, climbing onto the little stool that she has carried into the kitchen herself, plonking the sippy cup angrily onto the work surface. She keeps a close eye on me as I take the lid off, fill it with a dash of juice and plenty of water, and offer it to her, lid off, on one condition: “Sit down! Sit down to drink!” I tell her. She yanks the cup out of my hands again and drains it, standing up on the stool.

She can do it. She’s nearly two.

Tonight, it was like she offered me a choice.

She pooed in the bath.

“Oh! Poo!” she said, surprised.

“No! Poo! Quick, get out!” the Boy shrieked hysterically and climbed out of the bath.

While I cleared up the mess, I offered the Girl the potty to sit on. “Haha! Potty!” she exclaimed in glee. She stood up and sat back down several times. When I had contained the problem and cleaned the most urgent things I was ready to shoo her off the potty and get her back into a nappy.

“No! Potty!” she insisted and walked back and sat on it again. I let her and helped the Boy dry his hair. Then we heard a sound.

“She’s doing a wee!” The Boy exclaimed in delight.

We both hugged and praised the Girl for being so clever. She got to flush the wee down the toilet herself and as a special treat, got to wash her hands standing on the step by the wash basin.

I considered this little vignette she had presented me with: what do you want mother? Do you want to scoop poo out of the bath forever, or shall I grow up and learn to take care of myself, step by messy step?

Of course, like always in parenting, it wasn’t a real choice. She is going to become independent, whether I like it or not. So I will embrace it, and offer her the opportunities to learn and grow that she is so desperate for.

I put her nappy on, and tucked her up in her cot with Pop & her million other favourite cuddlies.

“Tomorrow,” I sighed. “Independence can begin tomorrow.”


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26 responses

  1. Well done to the Girl! Although I do feel your pain! I remember going through this – yes, they want to dress themselves/ get in the car seat on their own, but it would be a whole lot quicker if we could do it for them! My boys have only recently started getting their own drinks, my daughter still doesn’t!

    • I think getting your own drinks is to be encouraged, but not until you can be trusted not to cover the kitchen floor in juice and glass while you’re doing it. Perhaps the criteria should be reaching the drinks without needing a stool…

  2. Well done! Baby is only (almost 16 months) but super independent and drives me mad with all the mess. She just follows me around emptying what I have put away. She seems to have reverse OCD! x

  3. I adore this Judith and can so relate! Watching them grow up and become independent is a VERY messy process. Well done to the girl – awesome progress!

  4. My youngest is almost two and I’m feeling exactly the same as you, I enjoy him being dependant on me but I know the independence is coming. Well done to her for sitting on the potty! Your daughter talks really well for nearly two, that’s another thing to be proud of 🙂

    • Perhaps the subject for another post! She is quite ahead with her language but I believe that girls are generally earlier to talk than boys.

  5. Love this post, sounds so much like my husband. Leave it I’ll do it lol. I must admit I hate mess myself. When our little guy was diagnosed I realised there and then my job was to make him independent, he would happily use us as a tool his whole life otherwise. It is a hard struggle but it is our job as mums to get them ready for the world. Its very sad as no one wants their little ones to grow up x

  6. I’m with you on the lake of milk, Judith. Even though he’s older, I was secretly quite pleased that my son didn’t make mugs of tea to bring to our bedroom this morning after all. It’s a messy business isn’t it. I have a friend who’s mission it is to make her child as independent as possible from an early age. You can see the little girl is expected to make decisions that a teenager wouldn’t have to.

  7. Oh, I could have written this myself! As you know, my son is just coming up tom two, too, and he does all of this! I want to carry him down the stairs, and help him get dressed and put him in the car seat, but no, he doesn’t want my help! They have to grow up! x

  8. Oh so true. We’re just emerging from potty training with Kara, who has reached this stage a good six months ahead of both boys and has been much more determinedly independent about it. As a result, she’s made very fast progress but the downside is we’ve had a few, well, messy incidents along the way. I’m hugely proud of her and how self-sufficient she is, but those first couple of weeks were nothing short of terrifying and both my wife and I wondered on several occasions if we were making a terrible mistake.

    • Oh dear, I really am not ready to potty train the Girl yet, even if she sits on the potty occasionally and does an accidental wee… I mean, my son is nearly 4 and I still don’t go anywhere without at least two changes of clothing.

  9. Aww it is difficult to reconcile the two isn;t it? But they have to grow up at some point I guess. I like the fact that Monkey is becoming more independent (with my pregnancy and pelvis issues he has to be) but it is a bit sad to think of him needing me less! I have to remind myself it is a good thing though!! xx #loudnproud

    • I think becoming an older sibling pretty much kicks you out in the cold and gives you a crash course in fending for yourself – I do wonder what Monkey will do and learn in those traumatic early weeks with the new baby! My son learned to climb into the bath by himself as I just didn’t have enough hands to help him in anymore. 🙂

  10. Yes. THIS! Beaver is 5 and helps herself to things. Squash. Pouring her own. Doing the tap. Too much. Water. Everywhere. It’s sooooo hard letting them do things when you know it’s going to make more work for you. That is until no. 3 came along. Now I’m so tired and stretched I’m hoping Beaver will soon learn to cook dinner for us all. Sod the mess. Great post 🙂 PS 2.5 year old still not potty trained and probably never will be now! Congrats 😉

    • Oh no I don’t think the Girl is actually going to be potty trained for a while – it was just a happy accident that served as a little lesson for Mummy. 🙂 She can just about recognise that she needs a clean nappy, but is def not ready to tell me when she needs to go. Plus my nearly four year old son is not done potty training yet…

  11. With my daughter I was eager to let her have her independence, let her learn to do things be herself. My son however I have just done things for him as it is often easier and quicker… I’m making a rod for my own back, I really need to let him have more independence.

    Poo in the bath, personally has to be one of the worst parenting jobs,

    • That is exactly what I do! I keep encouraging my son to put on his own shoes and socks and get dressed and walk everywhere – and he just lies on the sofa waiting for me to do it for him, then demands to sit in the buggy because he is just “too tired” to walk. My daughter, on the other hand, screams blue murder if I try to strap her in and will walk for miles, even helping me push her big brother in the buggy. Not a great visual for the casual passer-by.

  12. it is a tricky balance to get right and sometimes when my boys help themselves to milk it does end in disaster and i get cross at the time i have to spend clearing up – but they do have to learn someday don’t they. My little girl is also starting to climb into the car seat herself and onto her booster seat and that is great and it saves my back getting worse. x

    • You are right of course, there are many things about my little girl’s increasing independence that I welcome: sometimes we can go out without a buggy, I don’t have to lift her onto everything and carry her everywhere.

  13. Ahhh this is so sweet! I would die if my three year old got milk. She would defo spill it everywhere! That first wee on a potty is an utter joy to behold. I hate to see them grow up sob. It always makes me broody. My boy is 18mths so I still have a way to go with him. Thank goodness! xxx

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