No, Maggie was able to ride the rides by herself or with her older sister, Evien. All I had to do was stand behind a metal fence and wave at Maggie every time she made the loop. Maggie had a broad smile each time she passed. She looked about as confident and independent as a 5-year-old can look.
I’ve been a parent for a long time now. I’ve raised one family and I’m working on another. Believe it or not, I’ve actually read books about parenting. Obviously, I read the wrong books, because my grown children think Leonardo, Raphael and Michael Angelo are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
But that is beside the point.
The point is, out of all the books and magazine articles I read about parenting, I remember two things — be consistent, and don’t do anything for your kids that they can do themselves.
Well, I’m successful at being consistent. However, I consistently do things for them that they can do themselves; namely walking. Yes, Maggie likes to be carried, and I like to carry her. Whenever my wife, Amy, sees me carrying Maggie, she always rolls her eyes and says, “Oh, please. For goodness sakes, she can walk herself.”
I know she can walk herself. In fact, she’s gotten too big for me to carry. Maggie weighs 47 pounds, and that’s really too much for an old guy to lug around. Still, It breaks my heart when she looks up at me with her sad “puppy-dog” eyes and thrusts her arms up at me.
“I’m sorry, honey,” I tell her. “You’ll have to walk yourself.”
When she sticks out a pouty bottom lip, I cave.
I don’t carry her far, just a few yards — but I want to carry her because I know, when children start walking by themselves, it isn’t long before they walk right out of your life.
Maggie is my youngest. She’s the last child I’m ever going to have. I want to hold on to her, and to keep her young and dependent as long as I can. I know it’s selfish, but how harmful can it be?
Amy thinks it’s shameful that I hook up Maggie’s seatbelt for her.
“You don’t have to do that,” Amy says. “She does it herself every day.”
“OK, I’ll let her do it next time,” I say, knowing darn-well I’m going to click it for her again.
It also irritates my wife when I put away the girls’ toys in the evening.
“They got them out, they can pick them up,” she says.
“OK, I’ll just help them,” I tell her. “C’mon girls, lets pick up toys together.” That’s when Evien and Maggie gather around me and watch me pick up toys.
“You did it for them again, didn’t you?” Amy will ask.
“No, they each picked up — a toy,” I say.
“Sucker,” Amy says under her breath.
The truth is, there are many things that Maggie can — and does — do for herself. She dresses herself, clears off her own place setting at dinnertime and brushes her own teeth. But there are just a handful of small things that I can’t seem to let her do independently — until recently.
A few weeks ago, Maggie graduated — from preschool. Her school had a ceremony in which all the children lined up around the perimeter of the auditorium. Maggie wore a pink spring dress and a white knitted sweater. All the kids wore white graduation caps made from upside down Styrofoam bowls and a square piece of cardboard with knotted yarn for a tassel.
Maggie seemed so proud and mature when she walked purposefully across the stage to receive her bright yellow-and-red diploma. I knew it was time for me to let her grow up. I know she’s only 5 years old and there are many things that I still have to do for her — but from now on, I’m taking the experts’ advice: I’m not doing anything for her that she can do herself.
At the Fruitport carnival this year — as I stood outside the metal fence, just a few feet outside Maggie’s world, waving as she passed by with a huge grin on her face — I thought, I never really minded riding on the carrousel, the big slide or even the elephant. Even if it did give me cramps.
— By Grant Berry, Tribune Community Columnist