by Amber Smith Zaliski
Is there anything more anxiety-inducing for a new parent than trimming your precious little baby’s teeny-tiny fingernails? Yes!
Of course. Have you tried trimming the fingernails of a wiggly toddler? Eventually, I figured out that I needed to do that while she was sleeping, and I’m proud to report that no little fingers have ever been snipped. (Doe anyone know where I can pick up my gold medal?)
For a decent period of time around three years old (I really like three years old) we enjoyed some cooperative, and dare I say pleasant, “spa-day” experiences where she would sit still and give me each finger, one by one, pinky first on each hand. Just when I was starting to feel really confident in this skill, though, something new happened. At four, my very independent, strong-willed, wild-child decided she needed to clip her own fingernails. “Ummm, no.” That response did not suffice. “By why, though?” I kept trying to tell her. “It’s so boring, just let me do it for you.” She would not believe me.
Now, I do not have a story of jaggedy nails and letting my kid learn the hard way because she wouldn’t listen. And also, the one time I did give in to letting her trim her nails herself, she got one little corner cut, and I started to hyperventilate at the vision of sharp metal biting into fresh skin while I watched her little fingers crookedly rearrange the clippers. I gently grabbed her little hands and somehow convinced her to please let mommy do the clipping part for now. Apparently that one corner was enough to satisfy her, and with a “See, I told you I could do it,” she has been content to let me do the clipping part for now.
I shouldn’t be surprised by this. I’m not surprised … surprised is not the right word. One of my daughter’s most used and most beloved phrases, from the time she started putting words together, has been “own self do it.” It’s evolved over the years into “I can do it all by myself,” or “I don’t need any help,” and sometimes there are exclamation points at the ends of those sentences.
She is the kind of kid that is never not doing something. If there is a bench along the sidewalk, she is going to go out of her way to jump on top of it and leap off of it. If we are walking up stairs, she is going to tippy-toe on the tiny ledge, lean back, and pull herself up the railing. If we pass by a decent-sized tree, she is going to try to climb it, even if there are no branches within reach. She started begging to use the knives when she was, like, two. She always wants to help. Then she wants to take over. She was just born with a very independent spirit. I really love that about her! I (usually) cheer her on!
There are also times I really don’t love that about her. You must know what I’m talking about if you are also raising a little dare devil that has you holding your breath quite often and won’t take no for an answer without a struggle. These kids are going to be fearless leaders someday. The only problem is that my daughter thinks that someday is today, and I can be exhausting to raise a fearless leader. Keep on keeping on. While I still won’t let my little girl walk through the grocery store parking lot all by herself (her latest “request”) I am trying my best to give her a little more space. That’s hard when you’re a stay-at-home mom with an only child. The best part is that she gets all of my undivided attention, and the hardest part is that she gets all of my undivided attention.
I’m not sure at what age kids should start trimming their own fingernails. It’s not five, is it? I hope it’s not five. Okay, I finally just googled it, and the internet says pediatricians recommend closer to like nine or ten or whenever your child feels comfortable. That sounds reasonable. I can get on board with that. I mean, I agree that the whole point of this parenting gig is to raise our kids to eventually not need us, but I do hope that she always wants my help in some way. For now, I’ll keep checking her scrapes when she slips down the tree trunk, and I’m happy to keep doing the clipping part. Pinkies first.