When I said to her, “Bug, you’re her big sister. You need to help her, to show her how – not try to control her”, I knew I had fallen into another lesson.
Sometimes they come too quickly to catch them all. And sometimes they even come out of my own mouth.
As I discovered with shocking clarity when my first daughter was born, there is no manual to which I could refer back when the answers weren’t right in front of me. That is a disquieting revelation, but it’s palatable at that stage – you can count the number of things a newborn actually does on one hand (and then you usually need to wash that hand). So, there isn’t that much real parenting going on, you are more or less taking care of immediate needs.
When they begin crawling and then walking, the game changes and the parent must change as well. This is the beginning of the phase that will one day allow me to put “shepherd” on the next resume I write. With their newfound mobility comes, as would be expected, the curiosity that drives them away from their parent and toward the sharpest, most breakable thing within three states. The parent’s job, then, is to guide them toward safe discoveries. Thus, the pattern within this dynamic is established – kid marauds and parent attempts to dictate behavior. The somewhat controlling nature of parenting at this stage is a good thing as the child must be allowed to explore this new world but kept from maiming themselves.
It was around that time that I blinked maybe twice and suddenly had a 3 year old that talked, ran and had an agenda of her own – and a 2 year old sister. Things had become complicated, it seemed. Now I was dealing with real behavior issues that required solutions more complex than what a Border Collie could provide. My mistake was that I was still trying to solve them by barking. When problems were arising I was rigidly trying to force the solution that I had decided upon rather than malleably help guide my girls toward the discovery of their own solution. I had had a significant hand in successfully guiding these two past their infancy relatively unscathed and had consequently come to believe that I knew what I was doing. Not so much.
In fairness to myself, it wasn’t that I didn’t know what I was doing, it was that I had forgotten to change along with the girls as they progressed from stage to stage. As they had toddled about in the uncharted waters of the previous stage it was important for me to more tightly steer their movements and establish the boundaries of their worlds. There is only so much that they can safely explore at a time. As they grew, though, their world needed to grow and their freedom to explore that world needed to follow suit. Inherently, my control over that exploration needed to diminish.
It has been and continues to be a difficult lesson, but I am constantly trying to remember to re-learn it – to change along with them. I will forever be trying to help them, trying to show them how and trying not to control them. And I will forever be learning just how to do that, letting go just a little bit at a time.