Mary wants to open the umbrella, carry the umbrella (unassisted) and then close the umbrella, when necessary. Not having an umbrella that is made for a four-year-old means that she and I argue about (and possibly wrestle over - not kidding!) the umbrella almost every time it's raining and we leave the house, the car, her school, etc... I worry that she'll poke her eye out opening it. I know that I'll get soaked while she carries the umbrella. She won't let me help her, which means I'm either not under the umbrella at all, or am under it in a cock-eyed way that gets me more wet because of the big drips falling on me from the umbrella itself. And, oh my!, the closing of the umbrella! We all know how hard and pinchy it can be to close an umbrella (at least one that's made for an adult)!
One day last week, it was raining particularly hard, and after I picked Mary up from half-day preschool, we headed to Target. (The fact that we were post-school, means that Mary and I had already had at least three occasions to grapple over the umbrella!!). When we reached Target, I made the decision that I would just let Mary do what she wanted with the umbrella. I was tired of trying to micro-manage her umbrella use. We got out of the van, and I handed her the umbrella. She opened it (with only one small reminder from me to "hold it away from your face"). Then she proudly held the umbrella directly over her head, and began walking toward Target, in the pouring down rain. Each time I tried to hold onto one of the umbrella spokes, to guide her, she insisted that I let go.
So I did. I let go, and I let her walk victoriously into Target. Walking next to her, I got completely soaked. The rain came down hard on me, while the little person by my side walked with her head held high, carrying the umbrella at my waist level. When we got inside, she did her very best to get that darn thing closed, while I shook the water off my clothes and hair.
Since all of life tends to feel like one big fat analogy to me, I will tell you what hit me, as I walked next to my daughter, proudly carrying an umbrella, while I got soaked. In that moment, I didn't care about getting wet. I could tell how happy and proud of herself she was, and that mattered to me more than keeping myself dry. Isn't that we do, as mothers (and fathers)? We walk right next to our kids, while they try out independence. They learn to do things like open an umbrella and hold in a way that keeps them dry. It takes a lot of practice and effort on their parts, but that's how they find success. Often, as we watch from our own spot - which is close, but not too close - we realize the last thing they may want is our assistance. And in the process of not interfering with, but walking next to, we may end up getting wet.
But it's ok. Really, really ok.