“You’re so lucky”, sighs my sister-in-law, struggling to contain my 10-month old niece while she pulls away from her mother’s hold. “Your boys are past this stage; they’re so independent now. You have your life back.”
I reflect on her observation. Yes, we’ve come a long way. From diapers to bathroom independence, breastfeeding to watching them fetch their own snacks, my boys have achieved a certain level of autonomy that comes with the passage of time. And it is likely the main reason I know my family is complete; I revel in their independence, and am keenly aware that I no longer want to change diapers, burp babes or breastfeed.
Still, as excited as I am to have a small – but significant – piece of my life back, I fear that a child’s independence does not always arrive on mom’s terms, often sneaking up on us as we continue to cut grapes in half and check on sleeping children at night. It’s the day Ryder talked back to me, surprising me with his clever rebuttal and acute sense of injustice. It’s the pair of scissors that Reid reached for, not out of curiosity but because he wanted to strategically cut his art project in half. It’s the routine walk through the school playground without a backward glance as they both make their way to classes. The constant space between our lives that grows and grows until one day, I wait for a hurried weekend phone call, listening as they assure me they have clean clothes to wear and food to eat.
While some moms fear the emotional and physical distance that naturally comes with independence, I acknowledge that the trait is actually made up of several qualities, all of which I wish my sons to have. Independence inspires individuality, confidence and competence. It offers children the freedom and objectivity to make decisions and choices that they will undoubtedly learn from, which toughens their resolve and builds self-assurance. And after I allow them to make those choices, I’ll be there – offering support, love, and advice… but never “I told you so.”
My boys’ independence begins in the kitchen. With the start of the new school year, I have encouraged them to take a more active role in preparing their snacks and lunches. This means that they select their own pre-cut fruit from the fridge, portioning it out into their lunch boxes. Sandwiches are assembled together assembly-line style, with them adding the meat and fixins’ just before I close and cut the sandwiches. They are in charge of placing juice boxes in their lunch bag, with the understanding that a forgotten juice box means a trip to the water fountain at school. In short, this half-hour of meal preparation helps build the foundation for a day when they’ll prepare their own meals from start to finish… maybe even their entire family’s meals.
Minute Maid has once again partnered with the Canadian Living Test Kitchen to create a new line of easy-to-do recipes that will promote independence and get kids into the role of head chef.
The boys and I love whipping up a Creamy Orange Fruit Dip – sweet, slightly tangy and perfect for pairing with a variety of sliced fruit, the recipe is super easy to follow and allows both my boys to take the reins while mommy watches. (Allergen Alert: Contains Dairy.)
1 pkg (250 g) cream cheese, softened
¾ cup Minute Maid® Original 100% Orange Juice
¼ cup plain yogurt (2%)
2 tbsp liquid honey
In food processor, blend together cream cheese, Minute Maid® Original 100% Orange Juice, yogurt and honey until smooth. Transfer to bowl; cover and refrigerate until chilled and slightly firm, about 30 minutes.
PER 2 TBSP, RECIPE MAKES 2 CUPS: about 69 calories, 1 gram protein, 5 grams total fat (3 grams saturated fat), 4 grams carbohydrates (0 g dietary fibre, 4 g sugar), 18 mg cholesterol, 54 mg sodium, 32 mg potassium. %RDI: 2% calcium, 1% iron, 6% vitamin A, 5% vitamin C, 2% folate.
To give Ryder and Reid complete control, I allow the cream cheese to come to room temperature so it’s very soft, and then swap the food processor for a wooden spoon. Just be sure to let an adult stir the wet ingredients until just combined, or you’ll have quite the mess to clean up!
For more delicious recipes that are perfect for independent little individuals, visit Minute Maid.