posted by Joe Anaya on January 27th, 2014

Pretty early on as a parent, I realized that at a certain age, raising a kid is mostly managing their will to be independent. Shockingly, that age was around 18-months old.

When my kid was about that age, he loved to put on his shoes by himself. “I do it,” was his trademark phrase. I’d suggest a trip to the park while gathering his shoes. He’d waddle up and snatch the shoes from my hand and declare, “I do it.” I’d patiently wait while his pudgy, uncoordinated fingers struggled with getting his shoes on. His face would turn determined and then triumphant when he was ready. Of course this typically came about ten minutes after he started. But the extra time taken was worth his clear sense of pride at a job well done.

Once we were late for an appointment and I was rushing to get out of the house. I grabbed his shoes and started to put them on him. “I do it,” came his disapproving declaration of independence.

“There’s no time, we’re late. I’ll do it,” was my reply as I straightened his sock.

“I do it. I do it,” came a stern warning from my toddler.

“Okay,” I told him. I prepped the left shoe and handed it to him, while he concentrated on placing his shoe, I quietly prepped the right shoe and slipped it on his other foot. My plan worked because he didn’t notice the slight of hand, as he was engrossed in getting his first shoe on. He didn’t notice, but he didn’t forget.

With shock and horror, he looked at his already shoed foot and cried, “I do it.” He started kicking at the offending shoe, “I do it.” He fumbled with the Velcro straps trying to undo them, “I do it.” Each time his voice getting more and more frustrated and angry.

Quickly assessing the time difference between my kid having a total meltdown and letting my kid put on his own shoe and the miniscule consequences of being late, I reluctantly took off the errant shoe and handed it to him. “You do it.”

“I do it.”

Of course, we were late, which was nothing compared to the thought of the next 20 years or so. I think about when he wants to be friends with a kid I don’t like. When he explains that this History assignment isn’t that important. When he wants to drive all night with his friends to a concert on a school night. The best I will be able to do is try to manage his will to be independent, let him do it and hope for the best.

File Under King of the Castle