Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Fostering Independence. Even When It Makes Me Crazy.

Zuzu is an independent toddler.

I don't have a clear gauge of how typical this is for two-going-on-three-year-olds. I assume it's pretty standard, the "I do it myself!" phase.

But wow.

Don't get me wrong--I'm proud of the way she asserts her independence. We are encouraging her to have some small responsibilities around the house. We've started by placing her dishes in a lower cabinet so that she can put them away and get them out herself.

It's a little bit hilarious to me that a chore that is certainly NOT my favorite--emptying the dishwasher--makes Zuzu so proud of herself. And I'm more than happy to have the assistance. (In a few years, I'll be ready to hand over the responsibility entirely--just when she's decided it is no fun at all.)

But this morning, she wanted to pick out her own clothes, dress herself without assistance, and make her own breakfast.

Fine. Except she pulled panties out of the dirty clothes basket instead of the drawer, so we had to battle over that. Thank heavens there was one more pair of undies that featured BOTH Elsa and Anna because having to choose between them, or settle for Minnie Mouse, or GOD FORBID settle for the cute little owls would have been a horrific fate.

Then she was furious that the straps on her sundress were getting criss-crossed and tangled, but she refused to allow me to assist her.

Fine. So I watched her flail around the room screeching with her head stuck in her dress for a moment before I finally stepped in and helped her, while insisting that I wasn't helping her: "I'm just looking at how pretty this dress is!"

Once we make it downstairs in the morning, I give her a choice between bagel with cream cheese or mini-pancakes with yogurt. Milk and fruit on the side. (She carb-loads at breakfast.)

This morning, she chose pancakes. But SHE wanted to open the freezer drawer. HOW DARE I OPEN IT?!!!

She wanted to select the pancakes from the package BY HERSELF.

And break apart the pancakes that were stuck together BY HERSELF.

And arrange them on the plate BY HERSELF. (After fetching the plate from the cabinet BY HERSELF, naturally.)

We've started giving her a real glass to drink milk out of in the morning. (In the evenings, we revert to a sippy cup because that way we can do some free-range parenting slash without worrying about spillage if she wanders out of the kitchen.) God forbid that glass be in the dishwasher because now that she has had a taste of adulthood in the form of drinking out of a real glass, she will NOT denigrate herself with the use of a sippy cup.

(Unless Coco expresses interest in a sippy cup, in which case ALL sippy cups belong to Zuzu and no one else can touch them. Ever. And she wants to "pretend to be a baby.")

(BTW, Coco is still drinking nothing but mama's milk from the tap or a bottle when at school, so she just gets sippy cups to play with, empty, when Zuzu allows it.)

I microwaved the pancakes for 30 seconds (only because Zuzu literally cannot reach the microwave without standing on the stovetop, and she likes to remind me that it is HOT).

(She is becoming a bit of a Safety Patrol. David was pushing her in the swing at the park and she kept insisting her push her higher and then said, "Daddy, be careful of my neck. You don't want to break my head off!" Which, yes. That is true, but perhaps an unnecessary warning?)

Then she administered the application of yogurt (she likes to squirt it from the tube directly on top of the pancake and then eat it in the messiest fashion possible).

Then she requested two additional pancakes and went through the ENTIRE PROCESS. Again.

It's adorable and all that, but it basically quadruples the time that we spend doing ANYTHING.

David and I had this text exchange this morning:

And that pretty much sums it up. It IS great. But not so easy to embrace it. Sometimes I wonder if I'm fostering independence or just ceding control entirely.

Toddlers are the most inefficient little dictators.


  1. Some months back (soon after we moved, I think, so ~9 months ago? When Gwen was not quite three), we slowly started taking advantage of the "do it self" business by telling her that she can't expect me to get out of bed until she's dressed. This means I get an extra 10-20 min. in bed in the morning, because even when she commands "After I get dressed, you get dressed", often by the time she's gotten herself dressed she's gotten distracted by toys and will Leave Me Alone for a few minutes longer, bliss!

  2. Ha ha, sounds just like at my house. Frostina wants to do everything herself,,,, unless I'm busy doing something with her sister in which case she needs me to immediately drop everything and do it for her.

  3. OH I feel this pain! Hang in there, eventually she really will be able to do it even without supervision and that will be lovely!

  4. That was literally thermoset perfect description of my life currently!!! I laughed hysterically, because, well...my toddler in a nutshell. I keep telling David "She made me do such and such" and he just doesn't understand how she *makes* me do anything, because I am the adult and I hold all the cards (and the power), unfortunately shriekella deville has her own mind and most days is not to be swayed lol

  5. Brooke, this sounds like my house too! "My do it!" I complained at school that Ben wants to pour his own milk and the teacher told me that they let the kids do that there. WTF? Could you not? Now my 2-year-old either A. throws a tantrum when I pour him a cup of milk or B. attempts to pour milk himself and gets it all over the kitchen floor every.single.time.

    Cute. Annoying. And then he has to do all the microwaving himself too. My do it! My do it! So I have to lift him up so he can do it. Mama's get better things to do, kid.