Children are fascinating creatures.
I’m both appalled and amazed by the amount of whining and crying that can come from one small mouth in a day. Not a small build up of tears over time, but literally from 0-60 in two seconds flat. I’m amazed at how wasteful they are, how they have zero concept of what it means to save and “waste not,” (it is our job to teach them this of course). How frivolously my 5-year-old tosses the thicker half of his PB and Honey in the garbage, his less-than-half-eaten bowl of Wheaties down the drain, but that it’s the end of the world if the gum he’s been chewing since 10 a.m. isn’t well preserved in a baggie for the following day.
I don’t get it. Or them.
I am shocked and amazed by how much coercing, sometimes by force, is required to get them to brush their teeth and wash their hands. Simple and mind-numbingly easy tasks that literally take 30 seconds, but you’d think, would be as ridiculous a request as asking them to chop off their left leg and flush it down the toilet. I don’t understand.
It blows my freaking mind that if SpongeBob is on, there’s nothing — and I mean, NOTHING — that can distract their gaze from the TV. Not the house burning down. Not being told we’re taking them to Disney World (which, by the way, we’re not doing. Ever. I’ll explain myself later.) Or that Ryan Seacrest is standing on the front stoop and wants to come in for a cup of hot chocolate. (They have this thing with Seacrest.)
Mixed in with all the weirdness and frustrating, is of course, so much goodness. I tend to define the success of most my days by those remaining hours in the evening, between school pick-up and bedtime. The few but painstakingly brutal hours before their heads finally hit the pillow, and all becomes right with the world again.
As they fight and wrestle to push past each other in our cramped entryway, tripping over wayward boots and backpacks, coats that never quite make it to the hook, my impatience and irritation always rising at breakneck speed, I have to talk to myself. “Yes, this sucks. But it won’t always be.” I am awed and inspired daily by their lives and, despite their MANY idiosyncrasies, the way they live. Without any “practicing” or intention or deliberateness. Not yet broken or discouraged with life (give me a few years) my 5-year-old, sick as can be a week ago, fevers, no appetite, sleeping hour upon hour, unable to move, proclaimed between fever spikes, “Mom! I’ve had such a lucky day!”
”Ah, what?” I responded, as I flipped the wash cloth draped over his hot forehead. In my anxious mind I thought an infection had invaded his brain and these were his dying words. “Why is that?”
“I got an invitation to a birthday party. I get to pick out a Wii game when I’m all better?”(Yes, I bribe my kids to get them to swallow Tylenol.) “Aaannndd, I have a sledding party next week to go to!”
I just sat on the edge of the couch in awe. Even in their worst moments, they naturally choose to be present. To see the good instead of the bad. They pay no mind to present pain but are looking forward to what’s to come.
I am reminded daily that they are really the teachers. Not always me.
When my 9-year-old wakes up early to watch me struggle through a Jillian Michaels workout video, to hear me snort that I don’t like her and she’s mean, my son responds, “Mom, she’s not mean. She’s just trying to push you to be better and work harder. Like a coach.”
So smart, little man.
The best advice I’ve gotten recently on parenting is to let them guide you, on occasion. As they get older, they’re just as, if not more intuitive about life and what they need. Give them the reins every once in awhile. It’ll be good for both of you.