Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The invisible cord

We're very quickly coming upon the time in child-rearing where there's a shift from just caregiving and simple playing to bigger things like teaching right from wrong. We're moving toward a time where we can't laugh at every cute little thing that Baby B does, otherwise she'll take that as positive reinforcement and continue such behaviors. I'm not talking about major things like "say no to drugs"--not yet...she's not even eight months old, people!--but more along the lines of when she does things like throw toys from her highchair and grab the remote control or The Husband's glasses. It is endlessly adorable to me when I see her stretching her whole body in an effort to reach the remote that sits on the table, and I want to laugh each time she tosses a toy with conviction, knowing that I'll pick it up. However, she's now at the point that we need to start seting limits, telling her "no" when she does something that's not right, and then re-direct her behaviors to more positive ones so that she does something that's more acceptable.

But...but...I don't want to be the bad guy! I fully recognize that there needs to be a separation in the parent-child relationship, and I have to be seen by her as an authority figure worthy of her trust instead of as her playmate or best friend. But it makes me sad to think about that divide that needs to exist, because my instinct is to want to wrap her tightly with my arms and keep her close to me forever. With each new milestone--rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, etc.--she pulls a little farther from me, stretching the invisible umbilical cord of baby bonding that we've been so fortunate to share, until she finally snaps free from its grasp and becomes the independent woman she was destined to be all along. My ultimate job is not to protect her from the world, much as I'd like to, but to prepare her for it as best I can. Setting limits, which we need to start doing regularly, is like taking snips at that invisible cord, encouraging and aiding that inevitable divide.


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