I used to ask myself this question all the time. “Am I babying my son?”
“You baby him. He’s almost eleven years old and you are still helping him get his socks on straight.”
“You can’t keep treating him like a baby. He is old enough to sleep through the night. You need some tough love here.”
“You are still helping him tie his shoes? Are you kidding me? How old is he? Time to cut the apron strings.”
Time and time again, I have heard accusations like this. Some from my husband. Some from family and friends.
And now, mostly from the internet. (Blogging has a way of increasing the number of people who feel equipped to speak into a life they know nothing about.)
I used to worry – constantly. It seemed like motherhood was all about choosing between my instincts and what everyone else told me a good mother should do.
My children have not progressed in these areas in the same manner as other children.
When they were younger, I had no idea how unique their neurology really is. I had no idea how much more difficult it would become for them and the diagnoses that would soon follow.
No one did.
I allowed my son to eat ice cream in the morning because it seemed to be the only thing he could tolerate. I let him wear crocs, even when the preschool said he needed to wear socks every day. I didn’t force him to do the homework every night after too many broken pencils and meltdowns showed that he was completely overwhelmed after an entire day of school.
I tied my son’s shoes for him – even at eleven years old.
Am I Babying My Son?
As my boys grew older, we learned more and more about how difficult aspects of everyday life were for them.
My oldest and eating. My youngest and fine motor skills.
The maddening sensory experience of socks for them both.
It all started to add up. Their responses made sense. For the first time, I didn’t really care or worry about what other people said.
I could see the difference in my boys when I provided assistance in an area until they were ready to face it on their own.
What Will Happen If…?
I think we worry far too often that if we don’t require and demand certain things of our children, they will never learn to do them on their own.
We worry we are spoiling them. We worry they will become egocentric and soft.
But experience has been exactly the opposite.
Here is one small example –
I have felt shame and judgment for tying my son’s shoes for years now.
The truth is, he probably could’ve tied them on his own if I had forced the issue. His fine motor skills have progressed and although it may have been difficult, I think he could’ve figured it out.
The problem isn’t the actual laces. It’s the amount of anxiety he experiences every single time he puts on a pair of socks and then shoes.
The sensory experience is overwhelming, but because he loves gymnastics and outdoor play, sometimes, crocs or flip flops just won’t work.
After braving the “nuggets” he feels in his socks and having the seams in just the right place, and the shoes not feeling right on his heels, when it comes time to tie his shoes, a fine motor activity that he has struggled with for five years?
If I force it, meltdowns, chaos, thrown Nikes and missed gymnastics lessons soon follow.
So I tie them for him.
Last Saturday, as I watched him practicing a flip in gymnastics, his shoe came untied.
I held my breath, thinking that he would walk over to me and all the parents would see me tying the oldest child in the class’s shoe for him.
He leaned over and nonchalantly tied it himself.
I beamed with pride.
I almost cheered.
He tied his shoes. All on his own.
Sometimes, our children just need more time and more understanding.
Meeting my son where he is, helping him learn, practicing skills over and over again but without demands or pressure, accommodating his needs –
It is preparing him to live well, despite a ton of odds stacked against him.
It is building his confidence and mine.
Am I babying my son?
But I no longer care.
Shawna Wingert is a former training and development professional turned education specialist, and has homeschooled her two children for the last ten years.Shawna has written four books about homeschooling unique learners and has been featured in homeschooling discussions on Today.com, The Mighty, Simple Homeschool, My Little Poppies and Raising Lifelong Leaners.
You can find her online here at DifferentByDesignLearning.com.