My parenting mantra?  Sit on your hands.

If you could hear inside my head you would hear the mantra repeated over and over.

Sit on your hands.  She’s doing fine.

Sit on your hands.  You already know how to sew.

Sit on your hands.  She is feeding herself and who cares if there is applesauce in her eyebrows?

It takes literal physical restraint for me to let my daughter do it herself sometimes. I see her struggling and I just want to reach out and help her, to get her past the hard part, to do it for her, but I don’t.  My hands start to move from my side toward her and I stop them.  It is the hardest, most important parenting lesson I teach myself over and over: she will only learn to do it for herself if I stay out of her way.

Friday night she decided she wanted to learn how to knit, again.  This will be the third time I have taught her.  Each time I have knit to show her, then sat behind her and knit with her hands over mine, then sat on my hands and let her knit, and by knit I mean drop stitches, make stitches with an accidental yarn over, created twisted stitches, knit the same stitch twice and finally give up in frustration.  So we put the knitting away for another time.

This time we started the same way, but at the end of the night when she had eight stitches, instead of the twelve I cast on, and a couple of large holes in her work, she didn’t get frustrated.  She just said, “That’s okay.  This one is just practice.”

Then she put her work down, kissed it, and said “I’ll see you in the morning knitting!”

I didn’t pick it up for her.  I did not go back and fix the mistakes.  I walked past the five rows on her needles and saw what I might be able to teach her to make her work better but I did not do it for her.  I sat on my hands, because I already know how to knit.

Saturday she picked it up again.  Now she has three holes and fifteen stitches, but five inches of something that looks like knitting.  She’s so proud.  She wants to take it to our friend’s house today, because that mom is a knitter too, and she wants to show off.

We hauled out my first knitting project, a lovely burnt orange…thing, and looked at my holes and my wonky first attempts next to hers and talked about why they were different and how they were the same.  As she watches me finish my first adult size sweater she understands that I started, twelve years ago, with something that looks just like what she’s making now.

“Mom, you’ve only been knitting for twelve years.  If I start now, imagine how good I’ll be when I’m your age!”

It’s true, but she’ll only get that good if she does it for herself and I keep sitting on my hands.