No Life Rehearsals

Live, Love, Laugh–Your Life Depends on It

Think of Your Child’s Development Like the Handpainted Coffee Mug

gifts from kidsI was reading a blog post on Scary Mommy (one of my favorite blogs by the way)  and it got me thinking.  I started thinking again about the expectations we parents have for our child’s development.  That’s what I like about reading other people’s blogs, they make me think about things that I might have shoved to the back of my brain.  You know that big “I’ll deal with it later” and “I’ll think about this later” space.  In my brain, this space is the attic and basement combined.  If I could just clear out some of this clutter….who knows what I could accomplish!!!  Call it Spring cleaning of your brain.  Is there an App for that?

Expectation are a tricky business.  I’ve blogged about it before (see When Your Child Says He’s Not a Sports Kid).   I think parents bring their own hopes and dreams into the parenting experience every single day and expectations are a big part of that.   “I know that you know that I know” that everyone is different, but, no matter what I do, someone somewhere is probably going to misinterpret what I say.  With that said, here goes.

Parents may not want to admit it, but when our kids aren’t good at what we’re good at, don’t like what we like, or turn out not not to be a “mini-me”, it can be disappointing.  For example, a dad who loves baseball and played through high school may expect his son to share this passion and want to play.  Makes sense.  Seems natural right?  But what if that kid doesn’t like baseball at all, doesn’t even like to watch baseball and thinks it’s boring (he’d have a point, by the way).  What if the kid only wants to play chess day and night.  Although he may or may not admit it, the dad is probably disappointed.  Proud of his chess loving son but disappointed nonetheless that they can’t share a passion for baseball.  Is it easier to connect with your children if they share your passions?  Sure.  But we all know parenting isn’t easy.  There are challenges at every twist and turn.

For me,as a parent, I love reading.  I read, read, read and then read some more because I LOVE it.   My love of reading started with Mrs Eaton (a huge shout out to teachers!) and it never stopped.  Now I have one child who shares my love of reading and one who does not.    Reading is a chore for my daughter and who loves chores?  Not me.  I’m not saying that she’ll never love to read.  She just doesn’t right now.  So, why is it a knife to my heart every time I hear her say she “hates to read.”  Why do I feel it so acutely?  Are my visions of her devouring the  Little House on the Prairie series or Anne of Green Gables dashed?   You know what?  She may never love it like I do and that’s okay.  Maybe we’ll just read them together.   But, this is the awesome part,  she has discovered something she does love and is good at…gymnastics.  She practices and practices and practices it some more because she LOVES it (sound familiar?).  So, I spot her as she practices in the yard or on the mat in the house.  We watch YouTube videos together to discover tricks for mastering a new skill.  But what if it had been something I didn’t like…like bugs?  I HATE BUGS.  What if she was endlessly fascinated with bugs and wanted to keep bugs in her room (in some kind of bug world)?  I’d like to think I’d support her and watch insect collecting videos on YouTube and celebrate her every discovery.  It would be challenge, I’d like to think I would be up for it.

So, you introduce your children to all your passions (hiking, fishing, baseball, football, whatever it may be) and what happens when they push back?  I think you need to recognize when your efforts resemble too much trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.   At some point, you need to let your child take the lead and you, as parent, become the faithful sidekick willing to assist, if needed.

Think of your child’s development like that handpainted coffee mug or other gift he or she made for you in school.  You have no idea what’s inside but you’re going to love it whatever it may be.

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Goodbye to my Summer of Anarchy

anarchy 4Anarchy:  a state of disorder due to absence/ nonrecognition of authority OR summer vacation with school age children.

My little munchkins went back to school last week.  Peace and tranquility have descended upon my home.  Those gleeful smiles and waves from the bus window match my own gleeful smile from the sidewalk.  Harmony has been restored, balance has been brought back to the Force.  It’s hard to put into words the feelings of joy many parents feel when their children go back to school but Staples did a great job capturing it in an ad years ago set to Andy Williams It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year.  Check it out if you haven’t seen it in awhile.  Even before I had kids, that ad made me smile.

I have now entered my first full week of the school year.  A year that languorously stretches from now until the end of June.  Now that I’ve had a few days, to reflect, I’m ready to address and face up to what my summer was–short periods of summer fun sandwiched between a state of pure anarchy. You know that tilt-a-whirl ride at the amusement park that is great until you start spinning out of control, your body goes one way and your stomach another.  Then it’s calm until you start spinning again–kind of like that.

The head “anarchist”  was a seven year old who spent most of her summer fine tuning and honing her skills in the art of backtalk.  I started to wonder who stole my seven year old and replaced her with a teenager????    That she’s apparently a “perfect angel” and “so agreeable” to everyone BUT her mother makes me happy on the one hand, but also makes me want to throw my hands up in the air and scream “what did I do to deserve this!” My little anarchist wanted a full social calendar of playdates and activities and anything less was simply unacceptable and she let me know it every minute of the day.

The other inmate in our house of anarchy decided this summer that he didn’t like to do anything except stay in the house, play Legos and watch television/play video games.  I spent the summer cajoling, pleading, threatening, ordering, and punishing to get him out of the house.

Don’t get me wrong, the summer was not a total loss.  Fun was had by parents and kids alike.  Weekends on the Cape, cross country drives to visit family and careening down waterslides and splashing in wave pools at the waterpark hotels we stayed at (genius, by the way, a waterpark and a hotel it’s like peanut butter and jelly).

But what about the disquiet and disorder that perpetuated for the rest of the summer?  How did that come about?  The first thing that comes to mind is that for most of the summer my kids were enrolled in NOTHING.  Every day was a blank slate.  I’m an under-scheduler to begin with but I outdid myself this summer.  I took under-scheduling to a new level.

Yes, I know under-schedulers like myself are a rare species hardly seen in the wilds of suburbia anymore.  In case you are not familiar with my kind, I’m the delusional Mom who believes that her children should make their own fun–come up with their own games.  Yeah, you’re thinking…how’d that turn out for you?  I wish it had turned out better.  I wish my delusions had matched up with reality.  But that was not that case.  So, how am I going to change the dynamic for next summer?  What am I going to do differently?  I really don’t know but I’ve got TEN glorious months to figure it out!

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