Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.

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Any of my mama friends who come across this post will probably meet it with a rolling of the eyes. I just recently hashed out this very issue over the course of several days. Following my whining, their loving comments, my venting, their loving comments, I came to a realization…my little boy is growing up.

My son is 3.25 and over the last few weeks, we have been trialing a program at the YMCA that requires I sit outside while he participates inside. While 3 seems to be the magic age for this, it’s a first for us. All of the programs that we have ever attended have been together, so I was tentative at first but was willing to give it a try if he was. On the first day he joined without much urging, but came running out half way through in tears and has done so every time until last week when he flat out refused to go. He gave it a try–a real effort in my book–and while I won’t go into the ins and outs of why I agree with him I will say that I believe it is very telling of our current growing pain.

Over the last few weeks he’s kept closer, cuddled more and slept lighter. He’s cried when I didn’t expect it and has asked for me when he previously would not have. I was growing worried, filled with concern and frustration and considering “solutions” and “fixes”. And, then it dawned on me–he was in doubt. And so was I. I was doubting his ability to determine his own readiness. I was choosing for him and pushing, gently pushing but pushing nonetheless, when he wasn’t ready.

This new world with all of its “without mom possibilities” has only just recently begun computing in his little processor. And I have noticed that our Y experience, casual conversations about possible Jr. Kindergarten (Canada’s Pre-K) enrollment this fall and my own attempts at urging autonomous play at home have triggered a pulling in rather than a moving out and away. After watching a pee-wee karate demonstration in awe this past weekend, he quickly turned to me without provocation and refused to ever take a karate class (by himself)–then it was swimming class, a yoga class and music class. He has always been eager to jump into social situations–excited to connect with playmates for engagement and group fun. But it’s now clear that the idea of all of this without mom nearby is foreign and, therefore, scary leaving him feeling unsure and insecure. My perceptions of where he should be now that he’s 3 have been clouding my observation and honoring of where he is at developmentally. As a result, I have not been unconditionally offering him what he has been needing the most as he navigates this very unsteady new territory–more, not less, of me and time.

With the addition of a little sister, more responsibilities and expectations have been tucked into his pocket. He’s asked for some but others have been hashed out by us, perhaps, too prematurely. We expect that with a certain age, readiness for moving forward and stepping ahead magically appears. But as with all things readiness, too, comes best in its own time, in its own way, and at its own pace. As such, I have decided that my best and only role in all of this is not to fix or solve anything–nothing is broken–it’s simply to be mom. Therefore, beginning tomorrow, I’ll meet his caution with patience, his fear with reassurance, his tears with empathy and glimpses of bravery with encouragement and by doing so, hopefully, foster the courage to take the next step in his own time, in his own way, and at his own pace.

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Author: Joni

Joni is a first time mommy (with another on the way), former teacher and lover of all things writing and cooking. She enthusiastically blogs about the pleasures and perils of natural mommying and wholesome organic cooking for your little family of foodies over at: and

5 thoughts on “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.”

  1. THIS increased awareness or revelation only happens from first noticing resistance. It is how EVERY great triumph as a parent has happened for me. I’m so happy for you!

  2. Wow. This exact thing happened to me and my daughter at age 3.25. In her case it was a dance class. She had been to her preschool without me, but this was a new teacher, new place, new classmates. She came screaming out, as you described. We tried a couple more times, then it became apparent that she wasn’t ready. After that she stepped way back from things she had already been comfortable with, such as playing with the neighborhood kids, getting in the water with her swim teacher, etc. etc. It took six whole months for her to get back to where she was. I felt so guilty for having pushed her when she wasn’t ready. But now she’s nearly four, and it’s water under the bridge. Live and learn!

  3. I applaud you for working with your child on this! No doubt you got some odd looks from teachers and other parents, but what matters is your child. That’s awesome!

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