Scott and I were thrilled to watch our granddaughter, Brookelyn, visit the Pacific Ocean for the first time. Like all kids, her first steps of independence were away from her parents, Jana and Aaron. As soon as they set her down, she ran and splashed farther and farther away from her adoring parents.
And, like all kids, the minute she fell, she knew where to turn; back to those waiting, outstretched, comforting hands.
Brookie reminds me so much of her Mommy. Once, when Jana was this same age, she kept running away from us while were in a mall in Duluth. We decided to see how far she would actually go, given the opportunity. We let her wander off, keeping a short distance behind her. She never looked back. She toddled all the way down to the end of the mall, into an electronics store and was "shopping" all by herself. We stood around the corner watching her and waiting for her to miss us. She never did. When we finally made our appearance known and picked her up, she wasn't relieved, she was interrupted. Secretly, I was a little devastated that she didn't miss me. I wasn't thinking about her need for independence, I was thinking about my need for her to need me.
Maybe, she didn't miss us because nothing went wrong. She didn't fall, nobody talked to her, nothing interrupted her adventure. We were still keeping her safe, but at a distance.
Just like her Momma years ago, Brookie was having the adventure of a lifetime, loving the waves, the sand, the delight of all things new and exciting - until she fell. Her first response was to turn and look for her parents. She knew they would make everything better.
Jana's most repeated phrase, as she grew was "Me do myself." If I fed her, she took the food out and fed herself. I allowed her to dress herself, only stepping in when her life was imminently in danger, like she was shoving her head into the armhole or when she was dangerously near the point of needing the clothes cut off her because she was so twisted inside of them. I rescued her when she got stuck behind things, under things and on top of things. "Me do myself," was always her reason, her excuse and her plea, but when she couldn't do it herself, she always knew who was there to help her.
By granting Jana independence, she learned how to use it wisely, through various trials, stumbles and victories in life. As an parent, she is now learning to grant Brookie independence, while keeping that perfect Momma-to-the-Rescue distance.
And, in lovingly watching Jana grow, I've learned to broaden that perfect Momma-to-the-Rescue distance from her. At each stage in life, from toddlerhood to adulthood, I've stepped a little farther back, a little farther back, a little farther back...
But, my hands are still outstretched....just in case...