Every now and again, I flick through old photos of my three children. I like to be reminded of the days when my daughters were still in nappies, still learning how to crawl, or when they needed my help when it came to feeding time. The photos bring back many good memories, but at the same time, they leave me teary as to how much my children have grown up.
Just like other parents, I have seen my 3, 5 and 7-year-old go through many different transition stages. From breastfeeds to solids, bassinet to cot, nappy to toilet trained, from crawling to walking, from being home to at school. As they've reached developmental milestones, my kids have started to need me a little less. But as sad as this makes me feel, I'm proud that my babies have grown into young children who are learning to look after themselves.
Here are 5 things that made me realise my children were growing up:
1. When they were able to do things on their own
When my children were first born, they depended on my husband and I for everything: from their feeds, their nappy changes, putting them to sleep, being their only source of comfort. So we fed them, changed their nappies, bathed them, dressed them, sang and read to them, calmed and soothed them. We did everything for our children because they needed us. And now, I look at our three children and I am incredibly amazed at how much they have achieved. Every morning, our 3-year-old gets dressed on her own, our 5-year-old makes her own bed, our 7-year-old gets her breakfast ready. As my children have become more independent, I've realised they're no longer babies any more. They're confident and capable young children.
2. When they started making their own choices
When my children were younger, they ate whatever we fed them, they went wherever we chose to take them out. Now, they are independent thinkers. They choose the clothes they want to wear, choose what breakfast to eat, decide which books from the library they'd like to borrow. When they begun telling me what they did and/or didn't want, realisation set in that my children are learning to think for themselves. That my children are unique individuals.
3. When they had so much to say
I remember the days when I was itching to hear my children's first words, when they communicated by babbling, when they simply smiled when I said "I love you". But now, my 3-year-old kisses me on the forehead and says, "I love you!" all on her own. And those very words melt my heart. When I drive my two eldest children to and from school, I love the chatter I hear in the car between my three children. I love the way they laugh with one another, comment on the outside surroundings, tell me about something interesting that happened during their day at school. I love how my children, who could never say "Mum" before, are now saying, "Thank you for everything you do for us, Mum."
4. When they wanted to know more
Just like other children their age, my kids bombard me with all sorts of questions. These questions may sometimes lead me to the brink of insanity, but most of the time they make me smile knowing that my children have a desire to expand their knowledge. It warms my heart knowing that I'm the person who they seek answers from. It amazes me that they're so eager to learn, so curious, so inquisitive.
5. When they put into practise what I've taught them
When I see my children apologise when they've hurt someone, use their manners, or show empathy towards others - I know they're always listening. I know they're soaking up all the lessons I'm teaching them. And this reminds me that everything I'm teaching them now, is helping to shape the person that they're going to become. And I couldn't be more proud.
Jodie Benveniste, psychologist and director of Parent WellBeing, explains that it can be difficult for parents to let go of their children who are growing up.
"As parents we have a natural instinct to protect our kids. As our kids get older and they become more independent, it can feel like we are losing the ability to do just that," says Benveniste.
"Part of kids learning independence involves them trying things for themselves, which may mean they get it wrong or make mistakes or even get hurt. But letting go is a necessary step in raising our kids."
Parenting expert, Dr. Justin Coulson, says that encouraging independence helps to build our children's character.
"Independence, when fostered in healthy ways, can promote a strong sense of competence. This builds confidence and resilience," says Dr. Coulson.
So how can we encourage independence in our children?
"The number one thing we can do is to be a safe, secure, warm, trusting person in their lives," says Dr. Coulson. "When they know we're always there, they actively seek to explore the world. If they feel afraid, they'll depend on us. But when they feel safe, they'll want to be independent."
Benveniste says it's about understanding their developmental stage. "Understand what is reasonable to expect from their behaviour. Then increasingly give them choices, help them to make their own decisions, show them how to do things and allow them to take on that new skill. Encourage them and expect the best!"
Clinical psychologist, Sally-Anne McCormack, adds that 'chores' don't have to be about working your children too hard, but giving them 'roles' where they help out in some way. For example, making the bed, putting dishes in the sink, feeding the pets. It's about helping them experience success and independence, but challenging them in a way that you believe they are capable.
Watching your children grow up can be very rewarding but sad as well, so McCormack reminds parents to focus on the positive.
"Even if they don't seem to need us in the moment, we can change our perspective and focus on all the things that they are doing well - all the independence," says McCormack.
Celebrate the developmental milestones with your children and remember that they wouldn't have gotten where they are today without your guidance.
"If we can just focus on the fact that it was us that taught them a certain skill, or us that put them in a position where they were able to come up with their own decisions - then we should be proud of what we've done right as parents," says McCormack.
Thuy Yau is a freelance writer and mother of three. She is incredibly passionate about raising happy and confident children. You can follow Thuy on Twitter, join her on Facebook, or read her blog at Inside a Mother's Mind