Thursday, 9 February 2012

Holy diminishing dependencies Batman

When it comes to parenting, I’ve learnt that a child’s dependency on their carers changes as they get older.


I.  Am.  That.  Sharp.

Their dependencies not only change, they seem to physically reduce over time.

Step back, I may have just cut myself.

Children start to feed themselves, they take themselves to the toilet and, of course, before they do all that they learn that most computer problems are solved by turning them off and back on again.

OKAY, children will continue to find uses for their parents, mine are still very handy.  But effectively from a healthy birth your child’s physical dependency on you is on a downward trend towards glorified chaperone and advisor.

Many child developments are heralded and remembered, like learning to walk, saying their first words or getting out of nappies, upgrades in personal development like that take their permanent place in family histories.

But there are many others not so significantly recognised, a child first putting his dirty plate in a dishwasher, them learning to brush their teeth unaided or taking a bath without a lifeguard.

Last week, my role at my son’s swimming lesson was downgraded.  My changing room pass was revoked, and only chauffeur was left on my list of responsibilities, oh, I also retained journey-home-chip-shop-meal-procurement.

All other terms remained the same.

Little moments like these are ones I like to celebrate, rather than request some sort of parent employment tribunal.  Though, that may actually be fun to do at some point.

I take great pleasure in little developments like this, more notches on my child’s personal independency totem pole.  But I know they can make parents feel the opposite.

I regularly have a feeling of uselessness.

In fact, upon momentary pondering, I don’t think that is really true.

Feelings of being useless are probably more of unnerve at a change in the routine, or mild panic at having to deal – or suddenly not deal - with something completely new.

But I can’t remember a time when these feelings have even become close to comparing to my glee at my boy’s progress.

In a recent interview I admitted to enjoying my child’s dependency on me, especially in the immediate aftermath of his mother’s death.  I welcomed the distraction and definite purpose that my child unwittingly gave me.

However I was – I believe – quickly mindful to ensure my dependency on him was temporary, and not something that grew to the point of thwarting his eventual progress.

I doubt I’d have been judged – certainly not to my face – if I had chosen to hide behind my child, and make my life, all about his life, and his alone.

Can be easy and somewhat processional for a parent to lose their personal identity to that of only being someone’s dad or mother.

But when I am asked if I feel threatened or sad when his personal evolution leaves me less ‘necessary’.

The short answer I give to that question is: no.

When pressed, the longer one I give is: nahhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

Some occasionally make the mistake of interpreting this attitude as not caring, or as in me some way seeing my child as a lessoning burden.

But it is actually because I care so much that I act this way, and I will always see it as my privilege to be my boy's dad regardless of my usefulness to him.