My youngest son came running in recently to show me a fragile finding that he had rescued from the yard. He was cradling the pieces of a robin’s egg broken in half. Did the baby bird make it?
Later, I was listening to a podcast and the speaker told a story of how baby birds hatch.
“Most species are born with an egg tooth, which is like a small beak made just for breaking out of the shell when they are ready to hatch. The egg tooth falls off later.
Mother birds do not assist in helping them break out of their shell because
they wouldn’t be strong enough to survive if they did.
The baby has to swirl around inside, pecking tiny holes in a circle around the middle of the egg to weaken it enough to crack it. This is called the Pip.
The baby also has to throw it’s head forward and back within the egg to do this, thus strengthening the neck so that when it is out of the egg, it can hold it’s head up to receive worms or bugs from the mother.”
I happen to have three kids at varying stages of “hatching” out of their shells. At just about every stage in parenting, there seem to be these points of letting go after allowing kids to try things on their own. Even my college aged son was recently putting off getting his utilities turned on in his new apartment. It was driving me crazy because I wanted to get online and intervene. He kept saying “I got it mom!” Pip, peck, Pip, peck. Oh, it’s hard to watch them when I just know I could do it better and faster!
A nanny I knew once saw me reach down to tie my three-year-old son’s tennis shoes (at the time he was three, now he’s the one in college).
I guess he was slow at it and I was trying to juggle an enormous baby on one hip and get going at the same time. She looked at me and said, ” You need to let THAT kid crack eggs.”
Crack eggs? What?
She started rattling off about some parenting guru guy that she followed and that “helicopter parenting” was this thing where you did too much for your kids and they just didn’t develop independence properly.
I tuned her out pretty much after the words “You need to…” because my child knew how to tie his shoes and I was just in a hurry and I couldn’t believe the nerve of this young girl who wasn’t a mother giving me parenting advice!
I dismissed the thought of it…
Until a package came in the mail and she had sent me two full sets of TEN of these parenting CDs from this guy! Now, my son was well behaved and not a tantrum thrower or anything so why did she do this? I don’t know but she was a little cocky in general so I’m pretty sure I groaned and threw them in a corner in my mudroom.
But then I pulled one out. And I listened…
“Children need to be given the opportunity to fail. They need to be given the chance to make a mess. Parents who try to do everything for their kids inhibit their growth and then take away the chance for them to build strength and confidence through risk, to gain self-esteem and grow in their understanding of the world.”
He recommended these different tasks at different ages that they should have the opportunity to try. At age three, let them crack eggs.
Because we don’t want them to….it’s messy, they get shell in the batter, they get dirty, egg gets on the floor, it’s a cooking hassle and we can just do that part so easily while they just dump in the flour we’ve measured.
Because their fingers are little and fumbly, and they might squeeze it and ruin the whole cake!
IF all of those things happened, would it really be a disaster?
Or could he gain confidence and get better at this skill and others where his internal voice says, “I can do it. It’s ok, I can clean it up and try again.”
So I tried it.
I said, “Today we are cooking and you get to crack the eggs.”
Elation from my son.
I was truly a ridiculous wreck because he’s my first child and I’m kind of neat in the kitchen and I knew this would end badly…but his face was priceless! He felt so big and was so excited.
I fought back every wince and said “you can do it” and “it’s ok, you got most of it in, I’ll wipe that up”
And he did it, and he tied his shoes and he climbed the tree and he drove to a friend’s house and drove a date to the dance and went off to college and he’s still cooking today and trying to get his utilities turned on in his new apartment!
The egg tooth is falling off but I still try to peck for them some. I still get confused about what stage to let go of what things during all of these transitions.
It’s a balance.
Sometimes we still need to hand something to them and help. Other times we need to get out of their way.
Grandfather Papa Ed always reminded me that when he was 17, he was in World War 2 defending our country in the trenches of France. He is my reminder to let go sometimes. Other moms remind me to hang on just a little bit more sometimes.
It’s a balance.
Your thoughts? Do you struggle with when to hang on or help and when to let them do things on their own?
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