O: (sobbing) But mama, I need. I need. I need.
K: What do you need, my love?
O: I don't know.
The indignities of childhood are innumerable: scraped knees, hurt feelings, bullies, bragging, tattletales, and countless disappointments. When your kids are little it is so tempting to swoop in, to cuddle, to soothe, to pacify, to clear every single pebble or boulder that they come across. They are ours for such a short time, why wouldn't we want to smooth their path while we still can?
It is so tempting to be mommy-fix-it. Taking away their hurt and being the hero can feel irresistible, but that is not about them. It is about me. When I solve a problem or sweep away a stone, that is my victory, not theirs. It shows them how much they need me, instead of how capable they are. It robs them of an opportunity to learn a new skill, to think about a problem in a new way, or to discover something inherently powerful in themselves.
I try to be mindful of what and when I fix. Sometimes, it's ok to stumble on a pebble. Sometimes, a boulder is there for a reason. It isn't always pretty. There is usually screaming and sometimes tears, real ones, wet and fat, running in rivers down their sweet, round faces. The worst is when there is no good solution, only that they have to learn to sit with their sadness. That is when it is the hardest not to swoop in and fix. That's when I cry with them.
As satisfying as it is to move the boulder for them, I try to imagine the pride and joy on their faces when they discover their own way around that boulder, or often, in O's case, straight through it. I get the sense that P will be the type to burrow under her boulders, or vault over them, finding solutions none of us could have ever even envisioned.
There is immediate relief in clearing that path, but there is true bliss in watching them move mountains. It takes patience and self-restraint, but what part of parenting doesn't?