Another personal anecdote!
There comes a time in every child’s life when they realize they want to be independent. This is normally a good thing. It is. I know it’s hard to take the training wheels off, so to speak, but it happens eventually. As a parent, however, you need to decide when independence is a good thing or when you should press down on the brakes and halt any situations from getting out of control.
I like sleep. Those few extra minutes in the morning are usually much desired and much needed. If you’ve stayed up late the night before, worked long hours, or gotten up twenty times to assure your child there are, in fact, no monsters under the bed, pushing the snooze button is a must.
I regularly press the snooze button. And I wish for five more minutes of sleep. But my son dutifully comes in each morning, asks if I need, “more minutes,” to which I always reply with a groggy, slightly slurred, “Yes.” I’m not a morning person. And anyone who knows me knows that I loathe the early mornings that so often accompany parenthood.
Most often my son, if the TV is left on the cartoon channel, will retreat from my bedroom and allow me those few extra minutes of sleep. He’ll watch a show until he decides he cannot possibly go an extra minute without food. He’ll come back to my bedside, assert his dominance as a child in need of sustenance, to which I’ll have to call my dreams and my peace and quiet done for the day.
However, it’s another matter entirely when instead of getting a morning wakeup call to put on my chef hat and prepare a breakfast with all the food groups, I get told, “Mom! Mom, I’m making waffles. Do you want any?”
My heart stopped. I looked at my son through hooded eyes, asked if he’d repeat what he’d just said only to listen to the key factors of the sentence. “I’m making waffles.” It wasn’t, “Can you make waffles.” Or “I want waffles.” Or even, “Get your lazy butt out of bed and fix me some breakfast.” The key words in my son’s sentence were the fact that he was making himself waffles. At three years old my son felt that he was independent enough to get the toaster out of the appliance garage, (yes, I have an appliance garage!) plug the device in, grab the waffles from the freezer and begin cooking himself breakfast.
Of course, naturally, my next step was to bolt up, throw the covers off and rush towards the kitchen. I expected there to be smoke billowing from the toaster. I cursed the fact that perhaps my smoke detector was out of batteries, or I expected that maybe I was over reacting, that I had misunderstood my three year old, instead finding a plate of frozen waffles on the table.
But no. As I reached the kitchen, heart pounding, hands sweaty and fear in my eyes, the toaster popped. Up shot perfectly toasted waffles, a shade of golden brown that had my mouth watering instantly. Neatly placed beside were plates, forks and napkins and the syrup.
I wasn’t sure if I should cry from the stress. Feel proud and tear at the sight of my son making himself breakfast. Even thank him for being polite enough to offer to make me my own batch of golden brown waffles. Either way, once the adrenaline coursing through my veins began to dissipate, I needed to decide how to move passed the event. I needed to decide if my son was independent enough or not to work a toaster.
I decided at three, he wasn’t. I thanked him for the waffles. I poured the syrup, cutting up his breakfast and had to explain that though he hadn’t exactly done anything wrong—he argued that I’d never told him he couldn’t work a toaster—that from now on I’d be the only waffle making chef in the house. Sure, I didn’t tell him I had nearly had a heart attack—that was beside the point. I needed to explain that he was still my baby. That as a mother it was my job, until he was old enough, to make the waffles, cut them up and serve them. Of course, what I got back was, “When will I be old enough?”
“Not today. Not tomorrow, and not for a very long time.”
I wasn’t ready to take the training wheels off that day. Three is a little young to be making waffles, working a toaster and being independent, but I also wouldn’t realize then that making waffles was just the start of my sons need to be independent.
*Truth be told this happened a few years ago and my son, now six, does have the appropriate certification to operate the toaster :)*