My youngest daughter rolled over for the first time when she was 3 1/2 months old. Her two older siblings were very excited about their baby sister’s new accomplishment and cheered her on at each turn. As most babies, however, once she turned from her back onto her stomach, she had a difficult time turning from her stomach onto her back. She squirmed and struggled and often ended up crying if someone had not come in to turn her over.
One day when my older children were in school, a few weeks after the baby had first turned over, I saw the baby struggling while lying on her stomach, but then finally turn back over all on her own. Wow, I was amazed. I picked her up and celebrated with her by doing a dance.
Later in the week when my older children came home from school one day, I put my baby daughter on the floor to play and she, of course, rolled right onto her stomach. The baby stayed on her stomach for a few minutes before becoming frustrated and my other daughter began to run in to turn her over. I stopped my daughter midway and told her not to jump in and “rescue” the baby. I told her that I saw that the baby was able to turn back over all on her own and that if we ran in to turn her over, she may get discouraged from trying to turn over by herself. Instead of running in to rescue her, I invited the kids to show the baby support by encouraging the baby and cheering her on along with me.
Together the three of us chanted, “You can do it! Go baby go! Turn baby turn!”
The baby struggled, and was definitely frustrated. She tugged and pulled and pushed and was working hard! And then…she turned!!
“Woohoo!” we all shouted together. The baby had the biggest smile on her face. She was so proud of herself. All her hard work paid off.
I remember thinking at the time that it would have been easy for me or for any of the other kids to just turn her over. It was, after all, difficult to watch her struggle and get frustrated. But I also knew that she was able to physically do it on her own. So instead of choosing to rescue her, I chose to show her how much I believed in her. It was not easy for her, nor was it easy for me to see her struggle in that way; but in the moment I felt that it was the best way for me to support her and help her learn a valuable lesson about herself.
Thinking about this later on that same day – choosing to support my young daughter rather than to “rescue” her – reminded me of the time when I was an older teenager and was struggling with a tough decision.
I was at a luncheon at my local synagogue where I was sitting with my family. One of the waiters at the luncheon knew a friend of mine from school and struck up a conversation with me. We chatted a bit and of course it was awkward because my parents were there and I thought he was kind of cute and all. Long story short – he asked for my number and I gave it to him; although I do remember wondering why. I didn’t really know him, after all. I guess I felt safe because I met him while my parents were around. I felt a little funny, but did wonder whether or not he would call me.
He did. That very night. To invite me to a party. And it was then that the struggle began.
Should I go with him? I did not know him very well at all. I knew his cousin, but was not great friends with her. He seemed like a nice Jewish boy. He was pretty cute. But I did not know him.
I asked him to call me back in a half an hour.
I knocked on my mother’s bedroom door and asked her what she thought I should do. I was so taken aback by her response:
“I don’t know, but I am sure you will make the right decision.”
What?!! Was she kidding? How could she leave me stranded like that? I was totally expecting her to bail me out, tell me what to do, save me from having to decide (which has always been a struggle of mine.) And yet no matter how hard I tried to get her to tell me what to do, she kept her mouth shut. I was so mad at her. It drove me crazy.
But I had no time to waste. He was going to call back in a few minutes. I was too embarrassed to call any of my friends. (Which was also a bit strange of me, I have to admit.) I had to make my own decision, and fast.
I thought about it and weighed all the pros and cons of the situation. Went back to the cute thing a few times, and in the end went with my own gut and intuition.
He called back and asked me what I had decided. I told him that I was flattered he had asked me to join him, but that I would have to decline.
Saying no to him felt like the right thing to do; it felt like the right choice. I was so relieved to have finally made a decision and went over to knock on my mom’s bedroom door again.
“I told him no.”
“I knew you would make the right decision.”
“Really? Why couldn’t you have just told me that?!”
“Because I felt that you had to do it on your own.”
“Were you nervous that I was going to go with him?’
“Then why didn’t you just tell me what to do?!!”
“Because I knew it was something you had to do on your own.”
I remember being so angry and frustrated with my mom that night. She clearly saw how difficult that decision was for me to make, and yet she would not “help” me.
But that night my mother gave me a gift. Struggling and then finally coming to a decision I felt right about all on my own, was a tremendous and everlasting learning experience.
I learned that my mother trusted me to make my own decisions. She thought that I was responsible, that I had a good head on my shoulders and that I can figure things out all on my own.
I learned that I could trust myself; that I can make the right choices; and that I can do it all on my own.
I was filled with confidence that night; in myself and in my relationship with my mom.
How about you?
How do you feel when someone supports you in a REAL way – without telling you what to do or “rescuing” you from your situation?
How do you show someone that you support them?
This week, take a few minutes to think about how you like to be supported.
Think about how you show others support.
(Do you jump in to tell them what you think they should do? Do you listen to understand their situation from their point of view? Do you answer with a story about how you were once in the same exact situation and this is the way you solved it?)
The next time someone is asking you for advice or help, think of a way that you can be supportive without jumping in to tell that person what you think they should do.
Think of a way that you can show them that you support them without trying to rescue them or solve their problem for them (even when you know that you are right!)
(And then do it.)
I would love to hear what you learned.
Respect yourself; find
Appreciate your unique gifts and strengths;
Contact Janette (Jenny) to find out more about how you can get REAL and stay REAL with yourself and the people you care most about.
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