We spent part of the last weekend at the park, enjoying watching the boys play on the equipment. Eventually Alex got bored and wanted to zoom around the concrete path on his scooter.
As we sat watching him, it occurred to me that we couldn't have done this two years ago. Alex would have taken off and ignored any shout to stop and return. But now he actually listens.
Two years ago, his emotional age was closer to a two or three year old. No matter how much trouble they know they're going to get, temptation is just too much. That's why we don't expect toddlers to avoid sticking their fingers in sockets or grabbing sharp objects. The goal of parenting is prevention rather than education. (And trust me, prevention is much harder when your "two" year old is over four feet tall and has the hand-eye coordination of a Cirque acrobat.)
But now Alex is closer to being a four or five year old emotionally. Old enough to start actually learning lessons and enjoying very limited autonomy. I used to get a lot of suggestions that I was being too controlling with Alex, that any child his age would want to make his own decisions. This is true and Alex certainly would have liked to go his own way. But he wasn't emotionally ready to have that kind of freedom. It would have been like giving a toddler control over his food and then complaining that he only eats ice cream.
As long as Alex continues to progress, there's hope that we may eventually reach a point of independence. He may not reach it before his thirties, but that's still better than being completely dependent on your parents until the day they die.
There's still a long road to go and I tell myself not to dwell on it too much. In the words of the immortal Yoda,I must be mindful of the future but not at the expense of the present.
I'm still hanging onto this little gleam of hope though. Guess I'm not as incurable a cynic as I thought.