It’s Sunday morning at about 7am. I wake up to Jack next to my bed telling me that it’s “morning time!”
“Look look Mum”, he shouts as he yanks the curtain open, “the sun is shining!”
This shout inevitably carries through to my light-sleeping daughter’s room and I hear her quietly cry, “muuuumeee, muuumeee!”
Jack runs off to go and greet her and I settle down for 40 more winks while he entertains her. This often happens on weekends. He is fantastic with her. He performs little shows for her while she stands in her cot laughing and shaking the cot with excitement. And I sleep.
Then I hear the sounds of Jack’s slippers on the floor but it’s Lucy’s voice that is getting closer? I sit up in bed with a start and sure enough, Jack and Lucy are in our bedroom!
“Jack! How did Lucy get out of her cot?”
“I took her out Mum.”
She was completely happy standing there but I know that even if the cot gate was down, it’s still quite an effort for a 4 year old to get her out safely. She weighs about 12 or 13 kilos!
Now Jack knows he is not allowed to pick up Lucy. He tried to once when she had just started to stand. I showed him the correct way to lift her but I firmly explained to him that he was only allowed to lift her up if he asked Mummy or Daddy because if he dropped her she could be badly hurt. I made absolutely sure that he understood me, and he never tried again, without our permission at least.
In this instance, I noticed such a sense of triumph and pride in him that I just knew it was not a time to discipline him. So I asked him to show me how he did it. We all went through to her room. I put her back in her cot and slid the gate back up and asked him to demonstrate. With some difficulty, he unlatched both sides of the gate and brought it down. Lucy offered herself to him, arms raised. He hugged her around her midriff and hauled her out her cot whilst moving backwards, using the top edge of the gate to bear some of her weight and placed her, feet first, safely on the ground!
This may not seem like much but it is difficult for me to express the overwhelming feeling of pride and accomplishment I had for them both at that moment. I wanted to shout at the top of my voice to tell the world, “ My brilliant son has lifted my brave daughter out of her cot all by themselves!”
I congratulated them both and we went about our morning business as usual.
Needless to say, the next morning he did it again and it resulted in tears for both of them. She cried because she had bumped her head and Jack was crying because he felt responsible for hurting her. Never-mind, Rome wasn’t built in a day and I’m sure they made a few mistakes along the way. The point is that together, alone, they have achieved something beautiful. Just a tiny little bit of independence through co-dependence. This is something I really want for them as a brother and sister.
What did I learn from this? I would never have let him try to lift her out her cot by himself if he’d asked me. That is, it’s all very well and important to warn your kids that they are not capable of doing something, but it is so easy to overlook the time when they are capable and let them try.