Charisse Tierney contemplates how to balance her motherly impulse to protect her children with the need to teach them important life skills.
“I’ll do it myself!”
My 6-year-old shoved the step stool over to the counter, plugged the toaster in, and put in a slice of bread. Her decisive, determined actions kept me at a distance while she fulfilled her intense need for independence. I resisted the urge to remind her to be careful as the toaster grew hotter. I didn’t step in and take over when the butter crept up onto the handle of the knife. And when she balanced the plate in two hands while nimbly climbing down off of the stool, I simply stood by and watched.
My goal is that, one day, all of my children will be confident, capable members of society. I want them to be able to cook meals, do their laundry, manage a budget, and raise children of their own.
And while all of these goals seem like something they will do in the distant future, the steps towards these goals are happening today.
As my children get older, I’ve been pondering whether I enable them too much at times. As a mother, I started each of my children’s lives by doing everything for them. And as daily life gets busier, habits become ingrained, and I forget that my mothering duties change as quickly as my children do.
It’s my job as a mother to help my children use their capabilities at every age—and children are so much more capable than we realize.
I’m trying to remember to not do anything for my children that they can do themselves. Sometimes this involves a little extra instruction time on my end; sometimes it means I have to step back and watch them make mistakes as they figure something out for themselves.
It’s difficult, even painful, to watch them make those mistakes. But it also teaches them that I am not their strength. I don’t have all the answers. And finding the strength and answers within ourselves means recognizing the One who lives within us. It’s only when we reach our limits that we learn to humbly surrender ourselves to the infinite power of God.
So I’m letting my 6-year-old make her own toast. My 16-year-old will have to investigate the unexplained charges on his debit card himself. My 12-year-old will continue to experiment with ways to make the best grilled cheese sandwiches. And my 13-year-old will grow in her abilities to juggle making dinner and folding laundry while babysitting her younger sisters.
Someday they will all reach their fullest potential of who God created them to be. But for today, we will simply start with a piece of toast.
Copyright 2023 Charisse Tierney
Images: copyright 2023 Charisse Tierney, all rights reserved.
About the Author
Charisse Tierney lives in Wichita, Kansas, with her husband Rob and seven children. Charisse is a stay-at-home mom, musician, NFP teacher, and a Catechesis of the Good Shepherd catechist. She is also a contributing author to The Catholic Mom's Prayer Companion and Family Foundations magazine. Charisse blogs at Paving the Path to Purity and can be found on Facebook.