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No, No, No, I'M Going To Do It!

Maddie’s long had an independent
streak in her: as soon as she could walk, it was her preferred
method of transportation, and she’d eschew the stroller
whenever possible, her chubby little 14-month-old legs doing the
two-mile-roundtrip walk to the park with determination. I barely
had to show her how to hold a spoon before she was completely
feeding herself, so it’s no surprise that she hates to have
someone else brush her teeth for her, even though she still
hasn’t gotten it quite right.

I’ve long admired this independence (can’t imagine
where she gets it) and have even encouraged it, since the more she
does the less Mommy has to do. Hi, I’m Jennifer and I’m
lazy – remember me? But the more refined her motor skills
get, the more tasks she wants to take upon herself, and the longer
these tasks take.

Which makes Mommy’s life, um, less easy.

Say we’re sitting down to lunch and
Maddie’s hit that stage of eating where she’s pretty
much done and has begun to sing and play (tell me it’s not
just my kid). Knowing she wants to finish what’s in her bowl,
I pick up her spoon and scrape the sides, ready to shovel it into
her mouth and then get her down. “No, no, no, I want to do it
myself!” she cries. And she doesn’t just say it –
she cradles your face with both hands as she speaks, as if
she’s talking to someone unfamiliar with the language and
wants to make sure she’s understood. Anyway, at this point
you’d think she’d just take the spoon from me and put
it in her own mouth, right?


Maddie will use her finger to remove all the food from the spoon,
smear it back around the bowl, then painstakingly scrape the bowl
again herself. Of course, if I’d not interfered she would
have done one verse of “Ring Around the Rosy” before
scraping the bowl and eating that last bite, but my meddling
probably added a precious couple of minutes to the whole thing. I
say precious, because by this time Cora is anxiously chomping at
the bit for her lunch.

So everything now has to be mentally weighed on that “Time
Wasted vs. Time Lost” scale before being acted upon. Will my
helping her pull her pants up get us out of the house faster
because she won’t really notice it? Or will the act enrage
her and make her take the pants ALL the way off and start over BY
HERSELF? Maybe if I distract her with Elmo while I do it?

To make things worse, many times when she “starts over”
she has to start over at an earlier stage than the point at which I
“interfered”. If I pick her up in the hallway outside
the kitchen to carry her to her dinner chair and she wanted to walk
(duh), Maddie has to go back – not to the hallway, but to the
kitchen side of the door jamb – and start it over again.

You reach this point where you’re gritting your teeth to keep
from screaming in frustration and giving her a (gentle!) kick to
the backside to move her along, because you know ANY interference
on your part will set you back HOURS by the time the whole
thing’s over.

Of course, when something isn’t an issue then her eagerness
to do things is cute, not to mention downright helpful. Every
afternoon when I begin making dinner, Maddie hears the cupboards
opening and shutting and comes running in. “Do you need help
making dinner?” she asks, already tugging at her
“helper” stool. “May I help you?”

And just yesterday Maddie was elated that I needed to make up the
guest bed for an impending visit from relatives: “Would you
like to help put the sheets on?” I asked. “I sure
would! I can do that!” she said excitedly, climbing up on the
bed. “Watch me pull the sheet over the corner, mom.”

And then there are the things that Maddie does just because she
can, with no particular fallout or need. We were sitting in my room
together enjoying a quiet moment; I was nursing Cora and rocking,
and Maddie was reading a book in her doggie chair. Looking up, she
spied the open door and jumped up. After pushing the door shut and
gently touching it closed, she turned back to sit down with a
self-satisfied smile. I looked at her enquiringly and she touched
her tummy in the cutest unself-conscious gesture of pure happiness.
“I like to shut doors,” she said, then sat back down to

I love my kid.


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