Friday, November 5, 2010

The Independent Child

Lizzy wasn't very old {3 months maybe?} when it became abundantly clear that she was one independent kiddo. She already had very definite opinions about what she liked/wanted, and she wasn't afraid to let us know. As her mobility has increased, so has her desire for independence, which is sometimes a struggle for me.

After all, every mom would love their child to be able to play independently, but what mom wants their child to play independently 99% of the time. Because after all,  if we can't sing them nursery rhymes, and practice counting, and read eleventy billion stories each day, and talk about every.little.thing that happens during the course of our day, HOW will our child ever succeed in life and school?! Of course, I'm exaggerating to some extent. But realistically, sometimes I feel like I should be interacting more with Lizzy, and it's hard to do so sometimes with Miss Independent. Sometimes, we only get through one round of "I'm a little teapot" before she's batting my hands away, and walking off to stack blocks by herself. Any attempt on my part to stack blocks with her just results on her walking away to read books by herself. Again, any attempt on my part to join causes a reaction in Lizzy that I have come to understand as, "MOM. I just want to do it by myself!"

When I first started noticing this, I found some creative ways for blocking off part of our living room, so that I could let her down to explore and play independently without having to worry about parts of the house that haven't been totally childproofed yet. And this works sometimes, but what I'm noticing is that when Lizzy plays independently in the living room, I seem to find so many other tasks that could keep me busy--dishes, sweeping, mopping floors, laundry, etc. All things that need to be done, but sometimes I can get on a roll doing them, and have a hard time stopping when Lizzy does crawl over and want to show me something, or wants to be picked up. I have a tendency to try to finish just one more thing, and then sometimes miss that window of when she wants to play entirely. 

So, I've been implementing something that I like to call "room time". We sit in Lizzy's room, which is much MUCH smaller than the living room, I set out books and toys on the floor for her, I sit in the glider, set a timer for one hour, and read a book or magazine. Lizzy usually plays independently, and I read. Occasionally, she'll crawl over to the glider with something to show me, and we'll talk about it until she decides that she's had enough, and she'll crawl away. I have a much easier time looking up from a book than I do stopping in the middle of loading a dishwasher, so it works out well--I don't feel like I'm missing out on the little moments as much.

Initially, I felt a lot of guilt about this--I'm a stay-at-home-mom, I shouldn't be reading while she's awake! I should be spending every moment of the day talking, singing, dancing, etc. I should be cramming every cleaning chore, lunch, exercise, etc.  into nap time {I use the term nap time loosely, seeing as there are days when Lizzy doesn't nap at all}!  But, Justin's mom pointed out to me a few weeks ago that just as constantly talking at Lizzy can exhaust me sometimes, it can exhaust her too. The fact is that she IS an independent child, and she DOES need time to play by herself. The "room time" idea at least ensures that she's getting "side-by-side" time, and attention more readily when she does want it from me.

Do any of you feel like you have super independent kids? What has your experience been like?


  1. I don't know that I would say Ryann is super independent. But most of the time she wants to play be herself, but just wants me to be next to her. She isn't interested in interacting, but if I get up to do another task she gets upset.

    I like your room idea, I think that works great! You are there for her, without overwhelming her, and without being completely bored just staring at her :o).

  2. Hi Meredith, I can tell from your post that you are really upset about this, I am sorry! Being a Mommy sometimes is tough.
    I like your room idea too, even though you don't think she wants you there, I am sure she enjoys it more than you think. Jillian and I seem to be playing in her room more lately too, just because it's more childproof then the rest of the house and also more intimate. Since she is a crazy crawling lady lately, it's nice to know she is confined to safe room.
    You are a great Mom for thinking of new ideas for the two of you to interact together. Hang in there!


  3. shhheww... I thought Eva was strange...

    She rarely wants held and would rather play on her own - even in a room full of kids.

    She "checks-in" every now and again by either coming to me or yelling from across the room. If I try and play with her, most of the time she gets tired of me quickly and crawls on to something else... not close to me.

    I think I too might miss these moments because I start cleaning, checking email, making grocery lists.

    Great idea on "room time". Thanks Meredith. (and you are not alone)

  4. This is definitely Annie too - not to the extent of Lizzy, but close! She will let me cuddle her sometimes, but usually only if I can trick her by having a pretty necklace on that she can also be playing with :) It does make me sad at times, but I LOVE that she can entertain herself, and I want to nurture that because I have seen so many toddlers who completely need their parents not only there, but paying attention to them, at ALL times and that is maddening on the other end of the spectrum!

    This blogger/early childhood educator made me feel MUCH better about not "teaching" Annie things and instead just letting her figure things out at her own pace.
    #5 especially hit home for me. I was trying to engage Annie all the time and she just was NOT interested, so finally I just decided that was actually a good thing, not a bad thing, and it made everything so much more enjoyable for both of us.

    Anyway, you are not alone and it sounds like you are handling it in an awesome way, by being there for her while also doing something you enjoy as well. Sometimes I just sit there and watch Annie too, but..... that does get boring. It feels kind of wrong to admit that, but I can't just watch my 9 month old clang things on the ground for more than 30 minutes!

  5. I'm not a momma yet, but I was a teacher. And I have to tell you, developmentally, children who exhibit independent behaviors are often the most advanced in the classroom, especially as they get older.

    They're self-motivated. They understand their own abilities and boundaries. They're self-learners and not persuaded by peer pressure.

    By the time she gets to high school, I have a feeling you'll be so thankful she has this personality. It's a huge defining characteristic of most successful teens.

  6. I think your idea is brilliant. I haven't raised a kid to adolescense yet, but part of me thinks that having an independent kid who can self entertain and make decision for herself - but who checks in with you - is a good thing and something to encourage. You're doing a great job from what I can see!


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