Step off

CG came back from talking to our neighbors about hiring their teenage son mow our lawn.

"It was weird. I was asking him questions and his mom kept answering for him like he wasn't even there." CG says, wrinkling his brow.

"Sheesh, that's annoying. She ought to step off." I say, shaking my head.


E lies on her play mat, toys strewn around her.

She is eyeing her current favorite, a crinkly "book" that she loves to squish in between her hands.

It is too far away for her to reach it.

I fidget in my chair as I watch her. She puts her head down and tries to push off with her feet, grunting, inching slightly closer. Next, she surfs on just her belly, arms and legs flailing in the air as she eyes the book. She goes no where and puts her head down, softly whimpering in frustration.

My heart cinches in my chest and my toes nudge the book closer. She renews her excited inchworm attempts for just a moment before face planting and wailing some more.

I quickly push the book into her hands and she gleefully rolls over to her back and crunches the book between her hands while I watch her, guilty and relieved.


Z runs to me, whining and crying about how she doesn't WANT to share her bike. "So tell M that. Use your calm, clear words." I instruct, glancing sideways at our four year old neighbor M who is sitting on Z's bike, ignoring her pleas.

M, the four year old who's allowed to roam the cul de sac unsupervised and always seems mystified by our family's rules about things like wearing a helmet and not barking out orders, stays put and more whining commences from Z as she comes running toward me.

I close my eyes. Let them work it out. Peer interactions have their own rhythm.

I open my eyes. She's only three. She'll benefit from a little help in challenging peer negotiations.

"M?" I call out. "Z's being quite clear that she's not ready to give you a turn on her bike and Z?" I say, turning toward her, "I expect you'll let M know if and when you're ready to share your bike?"

"Yes!" Z yells as she triumphantly jumps on her bike and pedals off.

I watch them round the cul de sac and wonder for the hundredth time today if I found the right balance between helping and stepping back.


Fran said...

So you have one neighbor who can't even let her teenage child SPEAK for himself, and another who lets their preschool child FEND for himself/herself. We have a kid in our neighborhood like that. He lives with his grandparents and when we walk by their house on our evening walks he runs out to join us. I just want to say, "Did you ASK anyone if you could leave the house?" He has also tried to tag along with us on bike rides wearing not only no helmet, but no SHOES!!! I told him unless he was dressed to ride he couldn't ride with us. He laughed at me...

Anonymous said...

I fret about that already.I fretted about that when he was in the womb! It's so hard to know that what you're doing is right. I love that you help them work hard on their own and then when they need you you step in. I suppose it's just a matter of "do they need my help or do they want my help?"

clueless but hopeful mama said...

Fran- Yep. That's the juxtaposition that I was stewing over in this post (but couldn't quite articulate very well! SLEEP DEPRIVATION.) I am struck by how INVOLVED some parents seem to be and how completely SHUT OFF other parents seem to be.

parkingathome- I struggle with the
"do they need my help/want my help" with Zoe especially since Eliza was born. Z regressed and wanted me to do EVERYTHING for her that she used to do for herself. Dress her. Wipe her. FEED HER. OY. Do I play the role or do I insist on her independence? Am I fostering safe, attached relationships or overly dependent ones? OY OY OY.

Hillary said...

In the case of the 4-year-old, I think you can look at it as parenting that child, not overstepping your bounds with Z. Poor little thing (the neighbor kid, not your little girl).

bingo mama said...

You handled it well...at least you didn't make M cry!

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