“I Want to Do It Myself!”

Photo: Don’t let the cuteness fool you. That Ursa Minor is a lot. But yeah, he’s pretty cute.

Two year-olds have all of the passion of any person, but they have none of the reason needed to wield it properly. It’s an awful state of being In the slow march to 3, Ursa Minor has entered into the all-important independence stage. It’s been a struggle for both of us for a multitude of reasons and, quite frankly, it couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“I want to do it myself” phase is really important. If you follow the school of Erik Erikson, both of my boys are all up in the Autonomy vs. Shame and Purpose-Initiative vs. Guilt stages. Basically, this is the big break from me, their caregiver, and a big working on their own sense of “I”: “I can get my own shoes on.” “I can use the toilet by myself.” “I can buckle myself into the car seat.” “I can pump my own soap when washing my hands.” It is a perfectly reasonable thing to want to do for yourself, and Lord knows I welcome being able to give a command and reasonable expect for a child to do it. Ursa Major is there, after a very long time of trial and error, and training. Ursa Minor is just getting started.

There are a lot of problems that this presents to me as an admittedly impatient mother. Most of it has to do with efficiency. We’ve had stead-fast systems that work very well and I can plan our packed days based on how much time various things take. Rhythm, hum and anticipation are essential tools for the stay-at-home mom. “I can do it by myself” means that time to do simple things takes significantly longer. It also means that there is a lot boundary pushing: today after school, Ursa Minor ran ahead of me into a (thankfully and mercifully empty) parking lot. When I caught up to him and gave him the choice to either hold my hand and walk with me or be carried like a baby, he crumpled to the ground and refused to do anything except “walk by [himself]!” That child absolutely knows that he should not run into the street. For him to break away from me like that was totally out of character, to begin with, let alone the direct defiance of my telling him not to enter the parking lot without me.

The other problem is the frustration. Unlike his brother, who expected perfection on the first go of things, Ursa Minor is ok with failure. What Ursa Minor isn’t ok with is the inability to try something. If I dishonor his independence or if he thinks I’m going to dishonor it, we can have a meltdown that derails things for almost 15 minutes. It’s exhausting. Especially because you do not always know what it is that he is going to want to try. Today it was bringing groceries in from the car. It took 10 extra minutes to bring in groceries because I had to designate 5 items light enough to take out of the plastic shopping bag and hand him, one at a time, to bring into the house.

And when the trunk was finally empty? The world might as well have ended.

It is really difficult to honor the “do it myself” during this time of year. All I’m thinking about is how tight our days are with appointments and last-minute shopping and other obligations, and my personal to-do list is not in the heads of either of my boys. I have to remind myself constantly that they are “working on’ different stages of their development right now: patience, sharing, playing with others, making friends while I’m juggling the world to give them the peaceful space to do that in. It’s hard to remain cool when they flip out over the placement of a chair, or whine for fifteen minutes over what is seemingly nothing. I’ve had to check myself a million times over the past month to honor their feelings, maintain order, and allow them the room to grow that they need.

I just wish we’d entered this stage in February. You know?

In other ways, we’re turning a corner. The boys are becoming less needy for my attention and, instead, have found ways to share rooms and toys without my constant management. Where my thoughts were interrupted every 15 minutes in the spring, I feel like we can have a morning with little conflict nowadays. Unfortunately, that means that the stakes are higher when the conflict arises! We’re going through a crucial time that is incredibly draining. With Ursa Major turning Four, I’m hoping that we start to further cool the passions and mellow out into more reasonable behavior. Of course, his turning four means more of an exploration of interests, and that is it’s own time-consuming sort of thing. I don’t know, actually, if having a 3 year-old and a 4 year-old will be better than having a 3 year-old and a 2 year-old. I suspect that y miseries will simply continue. They won’t lessen and they won’t worsen either…

My Christmas cards went out today and one Christmas package went out, too! Two more need to be out by the end of the week. I’m waiting on one more gift to arrive at the house, and then I feel like everything will be ready. Next headache? Wrapping. Which I don’t actually do. The Husband loves to wrap and is a little bit snotty about it, so I let him do it all.

And if I can keep writing at the pace I’m writing at, I’ll be done with this draft of Project Vi by Friday. Please, sweet Lord, let me finish this draft!

It needs to be a great week. Don’t we all have so much to do? Get out there and get it done today, dear reader! I’m walking next to you, cheering you on!


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