My daughter has been trying out big-kid phrases lately. Right now, she’s on a “Trust me!” kick. Whenever she asks to do something and doesn’t like my response, she sighs, slumps her shoulders, slinks away and growls in annoyance, “Trust me!” She’s not actually beseeching me to trust her – she just hasn’t learned the meaning of trust yet.
When she was a baby, we were – expectedly – smitten with our amazing little girl. On her first spaghetti night, we sent grandma a photo of my daughter grinning her four-toothed smile, face painted orange with sauce, little flecks of spaghetti stuck to her cheeks and chin. When my mom shared it with coworkers, one said, “Oh, that is so cute, but I could never let my son eat like that!”
For a first-time parent, that statement really stung. I had all sorts of second-guesses about my parenting. Was I doing it wrong? Was I failing my daughter in some way? Did people think I was a bad mom? Was I setting her up to be the messy kid that runs around with hair full of tangles and old lollipops?
As I processed, I decided that self-feeding was important to me. I wanted my daughter to have the sensory experience of spaghetti running through her fingers. I wanted her to practice grabbing food and bringing food to her mouth. I wanted her to enjoy the way she could leave little sauce tracks on her tray with her fingers. I wanted her to explore using utensils. For me, that was worth the clean-up.
I also realized there wasn’t necessarily one right answer. I’ve never heard of a teenager who just couldn’t use a utensil because his mom spoon-fed him when he was an eight-month-old. I’ve never heard of a toddler who didn’t know how to make a mess, because he never had a sensory spaghetti night. There is something to be said for setting a standard of appropriate table manners from a young age and reinforcing it as they grow, too.
Parenting is not a set of binary switches. There isn’t always one right choice and one wrong choice – it is a constant stream of multiple choices with varying consequences that lead to more choices. I’ve learned to research. I read books. I seek wisdom from people whose parenting I admire. I pray and pray and pray for my kids and my parenting. I make a decision.
And then, I take a cue from my daughter.
I trust me.