Thursday, November 26, 2009

This is what it comes down to...

I had a moment yesterday when I looked at Buttercup and realized she'd made another developmental leap. She was no longer the post-pre-K-early-elementary kid. Nope. She was a kid coming into her own right. She was finding ways to help on her own, ways to relate to people on her own. The shy kid was still there, but in her place was an increasingly interesting individual.

The other day, we were on our way from Richmond back to Dayton, and it proved to be one of the best trips we've taken yet. The difference between seven and six is radical. At seven, the kid is reading to me from the backseat. We are having full-on conversations. It's like she has suddenly become aware of the world.

The funny part about these developmental moments is that you can't prepare for them. No matter how many books you read or other parents you talk to, it is simply impossible to prepare for the moment that your kid makes the leap. Why? Because you suddenly have to adjust everything. If it's the kid deciding she no longer likes something she happily ate before, it's better to ask why she doesn't like it than to insist she should eat something she doesn't like. If she suddenly has distinct opinions about what she wants to do, it's better to find out why she no longer wants to do things she did before. And in all cases, it's best to adjust accordingly.

The brilliant part is that the kid can articulate her reasons at this age. If something tastes bitter, she can say so. If something tastes good, that can be part of it too. The trick as a parent is to find that space to adjust accordingly. It's not always easy, but like the koan about the reed in the wind, it's better to bend than to be rigid and break.

Count this as holiday lesson #743, and remember that your kid is actually a pretty decent little individual.