Giving our kids our time is something that we parents talk about frequently. Do we give them enough? Too much? How do we balance the time we think we should give them with the time they think they need?
As toddlers, they need us all the time – at least my daughter did. Now that she’s a decade past the age where “Mommy, play with me!” was a frequent demand, I’m more likely to be the one suggesting we do something together. Evidently, as pre-teens, they think they need us less.
Funny thing, though. My friends whose children have grown into adulthood regularly tell me that the middle school years were when their kids needed them the most. From where I sit, twelve years looks a lot like twelve months in the needing Mommy respect – “Come here, Mommy! No, go away! I can do it myself!”
I’m by no means the first author to draw this parallel. Psychologists point to parallels between toddlerhood and adolescence all the time. The difference is, as toddlers, it’s clearly evident that our kids need us. As preadolescents, they’re very likely to try to convince us that they don’t.
Which brings me to some other gifts of time: giving kids time to themselves to discover themselves, to become themselves; allowing them time to obey at their pace (ah,control!) rather than with the immediacy we desire; seeing to it that they have time to learn what it is to be independent.
It feels a lot like a seesaw. Some days, we control which end is up, and some days, they do. But with practice, we learn how to balance together, each relinquishing a little control so that the end product is equal weight on both sides. And while that happens only rarely during the middle school years, my hope is that with practice - and the gift of time - it will become effortless.