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Don't Be A George

Tomorrow is the day we celebrate our independence as a country. The Bibbed Wonder and I will celebrate Independence Day with the Stutzman family at their beautiful blueberry farm, weather permitting. If you are so inclined, you can join us for fun, food, festivities, and, of course, blueberry picking from 8:00 to 1:00. We are always thrilled to join our friends and other local small businesses to celebrate Red, White, and Blueberries.

With the upcoming holiday, I have been thinking a lot about what it means to be independent. Merriam-Webster defines it as the quality or state of being independent, freedom from outside control or support. Being independent is a fantastic feeling. However, with independence comes a lot of uncertainty, which can lead to fear. Watching my beautiful daughter grow into a young adult and gain her independence is so rewarding, but it is also worrisome. Being a bit of a control freak, I worry about how the world will impact her, how she feels about herself, who she surrounds herself with, and her choices. There is part of me that wants to swoop in at the first sign of conflict or strife and fix everything for her so she doesn't have to feel pain, anxiety, or fear. However, the rational side of me knows that for her to grow, mature, and be genuinely independent, she must learn to navigate the world around her, as well as challenging situations and conflicts. As parents, our ultimate goal is for our children to be independent, right?

For The Bean, I hope and believe she knows she can always come to us if she needs anything. As a parent, there is a fine line between being there for our children and being controlling. I have to work harder at not swooping in and taking control of the situation. Sometimes, the best thing I can do as her mom is to listen. Lately, I have found myself, correction, forcing myself to take a step back. Stepping back is difficult. However, I know my girl. She has to feel that she is in control and has to come to her conclusions through her process. She has been this way since she was a toddler.

A memory stands out from when she was just a toddler. She was sitting on the floor in our dining room in our big old Victorian in Brookville. Jordan was playing with one of those balls with holes for the different shapes; the goal was to fit each shape correctly through the holes in the ball. She was stuck trying to fit an octagon block into a circle hole. She tried unsuccessfully to force the block into the circle hole. I stepped in and turned the ball so that the octagon shape was facing her, pointed to the hole, and said, "Try this." She looked up at me with a stubborn little gleam in her eye, turned the ball back to the circle shape, and unsuccessfully tried again. Once again, I turned the ball to the octagon shape, pointed to the correct hole, and said, "Try this one, baby." Again, she ignored my advice, turned the ball back to the circle, and tried to force the octagon into the circle hole.

After a few minutes, she started to cry, tossed the block, lay on her back, and had a good, old-fashioned, frustrated meltdown. I could have stepped in and fixed it for her. I could have picked up the block and shown her how to put it in the correct hole. However, instinctively, I knew that was not what I needed to do as her mom. Instead, I picked up the block, laid it beside the ball, wiped her tears off her cheeks, and gently said, "If you are frustrated, walk away from it for a little bit. When you are ready to try again, go back to it. You can do this. You're just feeling frustrated right now, and that's okay. When you don't feel so frustrated, try again." She lay on the floor for a few minutes, sniffling and crying. I went about my day picking up toys and crayons, all the while keeping an eye on her and giving her some space.

Eventually, she tried again. However, this time, she turned the ball over, found the octagon hole, and tried to fit the block into it. Finally, she made it work, and her smile was priceless. If I had fixed it for her, she would not have experienced that feeling of success. It would have been easier to do it for her, but she would not have learned anything. By allowing her to struggle and meltdown, all the while acknowledging her feelings, she discovered that she could do hard things, that feeling frustrated is okay, that expressing her frustration is okay, and she learned a valuable coping mechanism. After she began to speak, one of her most common phrases was, "I need to take a "bwake."

As The Bean grows, she needs space to make mistakes, figure out her process, and create her own healthy coping mechanisms. As her mom, it's time for me to trust that I did my job and taught her well, and I hope that at least half of what I taught her has sunk in and impacted her positively. It's hard to watch her struggle. It's difficult to see her make mistakes. However, so far, she has come to what I consider the right decisions on her own. Would it be easier to swoop in at the first sign of strife? Yes. However, she would fail to thrive, mature, and grow. Someday, I won't be here to swoop in and save the day. What would happen to my girl if she didn't develop her independence and I am no longer here? I hate to think of that. Instead, I will have honest conversations with her. I will gently guide her and not try to strong-arm her into my way of thinking. Mostly, I listen and cautiously ask if she wants my insight. Most of the time, she says yes. I try to word it carefully, usually beginning with, "If it were me..." fully acknowledging she is not me. So far, so good.

Being independent is a good thing. This year, I am looking at Independence Day a little differently. Being the mom of a teenager has given me a new perspective. I don't want to be Jordan's King George III. We all know how that turned out. On this day before Independence Day, stay safe, be smart, don't be a George, independence is a good thing, and keep washing your hands.

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You are so very right! It took me awhile, as a mother, to not try to feel like I had to fix all of my children’s problems when they were going through tough times! They told me that they didn’t expect that, just needed someone to listen to them!

6 days ago
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It's a daily challenge to sit back and listen.

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