Sink or swim—not exactly a common parenting strategy employed by Latinas, but it's one I am trying to incorporate into my mothering schema every day. A friend of mine suggested I read The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, by Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., a Jewish mother. How would I explain my curiosity in this parenting method to my own Latina Mommy?! I even doubted that her approach would be consistent with my own cultural values and norms. I decided to read the book despite my concerns, and to my surprise, I learned so much about myself as a mother.
The author offers a pretty simple approach to parenting, and she does believe in throwing your kids into the water and letting them figure out how to swim. Raising an independent child, in theory, is something I imagine every mama wants. I definitely want my two little buddies to be independent one day, but what I put into practice right now doesn't really come close to supporting that theory.
Let me just give you an example. I picked up Hudson from school the other day, and his teacher told me Hudson did something amazing—he opened up the Ziplock bag containing his sandwich all by himself. Big deal! Of course he did, he's three years old! Well, his teacher told me that he has been asking her to do it for him, and they've actively been trying to teach my son how to be more independent.
She also told me how proud Hudson was that he accomplished this task. Ahhh! I wanted to cry. I admit it, I do EVERYTHING for him. I put on his socks in the morning, I dress him, I brush his teeth, I unzip his pants and pull them down when he wants to go to the potty, AND I pick him up and place him on the toilet (and yes, we have a step stool so he could potentially do it all by himself). UGH! I'm such an enabler! I have always thought that this is the way I should parent. After all, it's what I learned from my own mama. I felt awful upon realizing his dependency on me for every little thing, and feared that my enabling was holding him back and potentially setting him up for failure.
Back to that book I read. Mogel offers tips on how to raise resourceful children and, in my opinion, she writes it specifically for overprotective and enabling mamas like me! One of the things I love about this book is that it helps parents understand why they parent in a certain way and it made me realize why taking my own fears out of the equation is important. I need to remind myself to not let my personal fears affect the way I parent Hudson. I want to raise him so that he grows up to be an independent big kid, who possesses the ability to carry that independence into adulthood.
It doesn't matter whether you're a Jewish mom or a Dominicana mama raised on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. All mothers just want the best for their children. It's hard for me to accept that one day my little buddy won't need me to put on his socks, but letting go, at least of some things, is a powerful tool that I know will only allow my little buddy to enjoy more proud moments on his own.
What are your best tips for raising an independent child?
Check out how Latina Mommy, Yesenia Almonte, deals with her son when he won't listen.