Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The Next Step

I've never been the kind of mom who pushes her kids into doing things. Naturally I expect them to do their best at whatever they choose to do, but I am not a fiercely competitive mom. The kind who expects nothing short of perfection of her children's clothing, hair, manners, schoolwork, lives in general. I'm not the soccer mom screeching at the referees on the sidelines, demanding flawlessness out of not only my child, but the coaches and players around him. I'm not the beauty queen mom spending thousands of dollars on the perfect ball gown and spray tans for my infant. I'm not the organic health-nut mom who forces her children to eat rice cake tofu sandwiches drizzled with whey protein shake powder.

I like to think I value the journey and the experience of learning just as much as the end result. I like to take each day at a time and allow my children to learn at their own pace. (Or maybe I'm just a lazy parent..... Nah.. let's go with the first one. It sounded WAY better.)

When the boys were younger, I wasn't on my hands and knees crawling around to "show" them how it's done. I knew they would crawl in due time, when they were ready. I wasn't the mom who was pushing her baby's legs up the stairs to help them achieve that feat sooner. I knew it would come soon enough and I would probably regret the fact that I now had to be extra vigilant to lock the baby gate at the bottom of the stairs (and be ready to kiss copious amounts of boo-boos from chairs, couches, sinks, ladders..) I wasn't the mother who had her 1 year old signed up in 17 extracurricular activities, practicing flashcards before they could crawl, pushing the "Your Baby Can Read" books in hopes of a novel-reading 2 year old, and forcing them to memorize all 44 presidents in both numeric and alphabetical order while correctly matching their photos (at the same time standing on their heads and scrubbing the toilet. Hmmm.. maybe not a bad idea really..) I knew my children would only be young once and we only had a glimmer to time to enjoy them in that innocent stage. I knew it would soon be over, leaving me to mourn the "loss" of their "baby-ness," so why rush through it?

That being said, it might come as no surprise that it comes completely UNnatural to me that sometimes I have to push Ella to do things, to learn new things she might be too scared to try on her own.

You see.. Ella is a very timid learner. (Our PT says most late-walkers are late-walkers not because of a muscular or any kind of physical problem, but because they're timid to try new things..) She doesn't like to try something she might not succeed at. She can be is very excruciatingly clingy to me at times every moment of the day . She doesn't like to stand at her table toy if I'm not right next to her for fear she'll fall over. She's a pro at pulling herself to stand against any object (even a plain ol wall) but once she gets into a standing position she starts to scream because she realizes she's alone and unsure of what to do next. She's doing better at sitting in her high chair, but don't even try to leave the room. Trust me.. just don't.

For the first year of her life Ella stayed pretty developmentally on track. She rolled when she was "supposed to", smiled on time, and without her sickness would have been very close to sitting at an age appropriate time. Even army crawling at just over a year seemed typical, given her hospitalizations and all.. But since then things have felt very gradual.. I can tell she's getting stronger, working her muscles for some future accomplishments. But that's just it. She gets on her hands and knees, even crawls a few inches, then flops back to her stomach because she gets scared. She cruises along furniture like nobody's business, but if I'm not in eye level you can bet the siren's gonna wail because even though she CAN get back down to the ground on her own, she is so frightened at the prospect of doing it alone.

For the past almost 2 years I've been pretty content to let her develop at her own pace. I didn't want to push her into something she was physically and mentally not ready for. From experience with the boys I learned that (for my kids at least) pushing them into something they're not ready for (such as being left with "strangers" to go to a MOPS meeting) can be a terrifying experience, taking years to resolve itself. (Yes.. we are STILL dealing with the side effects of that torturous encounter..)  Sure, we get PT, OT, and SP, but with Ella's extreme anxiety with anyone touching her, it's mostly an observational therapy with pointers of what I could do to help her. No treadmill, restraint belt, or muscle-toning workout balls here.. Remember this??

Now don't get me wrong.. I definitely encourage Ella in her development. I make sure to provide her with appropriate toys that will help with fine and gross motor skills. I give her plenty of free time on the floor to explore her world and learn about it. And my body tends to serve an an all-purposes jungle-gym-play-tower-tumbling-mat of sorts for her to climb on, over, under, up.. whatever.

But lately I've started to feel some frustration setting in. Frustration that her delays are becoming bigger and bigger. Frustration that, although she seems to be working those muscles, she isn't putting them to good use yet. Frustration that I don't know if the right thing to do is to continue to let her go at her pace, or to push her a little harder. Frustration that as an almost 2 year old she should be venturing into independence and growing out of her clinginess, instead of being at the peak of it (and staying there for months and months with no end in sight..)

If you "like" me on Facebook you might have seen this photo last week.

It would appear that Ella has now become a climber. (This was not without a little help though, just to clear the air.. Don't expect her to be scaling mountain tops anytime soon.. or even staircases for that matter..) But I HAVE decided to take some steps to try to push her a little harder, work with her a little more, to help her realize that she CAN do these things.. To ease some of her anxiety. To build her confidence. To help her feel less scared in this big world. To get her off my tired, aching hip if nothing else!

I'm sure many of you are wondering how I'm doing this. (Or, in all actuality NONE of you were really wondering that..) BUT despite the lack of interest, I took it upon myself to put together a little photo tutorial on how we accomplished this particular feat.

The small bit of Rice Krispie bar strategically out of reach.
The dilemna: a stool in the way

The ascent (I had to help with the initial knee)

The reach

The grab

The look of triumph

The sweet, krispy reward

The satisfaction.


The End.

And NO that is not the same pile of laundry on the coffee table that was there last week.......
Okay yes it is...


  1. Great post. It's hard to determine when to push them and when to let them be. Although, bribery is always a good idea.

    And don't feel alone on the laundry front: it's not uncommon that I fold laundry because I need the basket to take new dirty clothes down to the laundry room ;o)

    1. Bribery? Oh no.. that was definitely a REWARD. :) (I'm sure there's a difference, right?)

  2. Ella is so cute! :D Absolutely adorable, I love that she always closes one eye :)

  3. I love the sweet, krispy reward! :-)