I turned around from loading the dishwasher to see if Pattu was done finishing the food left over from lunch. She pushed the half done box to me. I nudged it back toward her indicating it was not good to waste food. A cheeky look on her face, she pushed it back. We pushed back and forth a couple of times before I realized this was not a game. Looking her in the eye, I demanded she finish her food.
Calm, defiant, she edged the box toward me. I stood rooted, a million thoughts in my head. Do I push her to finish? Do I heed her wish? Do I threaten her with consequences? Will I have the heart to actually follow through?
“I will dump the food in the trash” I hear myself saying, a pleading note in my voice. She pulls the box toward her and finishes the few spoons left.
In the past few weeks, I have been receiving pushback for routine instructions. Things I normally request that would be met with instant compliance now require cajoling. It strikes me that my daughters are growing. They are vocalizing their feelings. They are testing boundaries.
The rational part of me understands that. There is a part of me that feels upended. I realize this is just the beginning. The years ahead will forge their individual selves. At this point, I am struggling with how I want to direct the narrative. Do I empower them to choose what they want to do even if it is at odds with what I want them to do? Do I let them fail and figure how to get things right or risk stepping on toes to make sure they make new mistakes not ones I have the wisdom to prevent?
I look back on my life. The answer seems simple enough. Let them figure it out. Step back. Be the safety net.