While I see some of me in my kids (Ce’s shyness, Ally’s love of tofu), they definitely did not inherit my love of sports and competition. This is probably a good thing. Never ask about the infamous darts game of 2000. They enjoy dance, and Broadway, and glitter.
This week, Ce and I butted heads a few times over homework. Cecilia is so similar in temperament in many ways to me but so different in the way she learns.
It reminded me of one of my very favorite lines about being a parent: “Perhaps the immutable error of parenthood is that we give our children what we wanted, whether they want it or not.”
If Ce read the blog she’d likely use this as a perfect counterpoint for why she shouldn’t be forced to use flash cards to learn. We eventually came to a peaceful resolution and homework was finished.
It’s all a dance. Help give your kids what they need now. You don’t need to forsake yourself. Give yourself what you needed then now, too, just make sure there’s room on that stage for what they want, too. Glitter and all.
But maybe not flash cards…
It was Michelle’s birthday yesterday and I was thinking about time. And the lessons we can learn from kids and the lessons we can teach them.
Birthdays to the young are huge and momentous. They are anticipated and planned with all the focus and energy we wish they’d put into learning new math.
For parents, our birthdays are…maybe not as special. We’ve been through it all so many times before.
A parent’s relationship with time is different. Kids have such a limited sense of time. They can be arrogant about time just through sheer ignorance. But adults can also be too dismissive because we are just too comfortable.
Maybe we can help each other appreciate it. Not to wish away minutes in a rush to get older and not to simply let it slip from our grasp.
Parenting is not one size fits all and I’m guessing each family has their own rules. Maybe your family embraces hot glue guns and Perler beads. Maybe you don’t. I would also guess that even different families and parenting styles share at least one thing in common: self-discipline. A simple rule that starts in childhood but goes far beyond.
Cecilia had to do extra math this week and she had a theater show. Both events required discipline and self control. Learning and practicing new formulas. Memorizing lines. Dealing with the ups and downs and Dad feedback of learning something new.
But how do you teach discipline? I’m not sure you can. Not like the distributive property. But you can be an example. You can control yourself. Show them how to do it, don’t just tell them. Easy to say but harder to do sometimes, but showing by example is a lot easier than enforcement. Or vacuuming up every last bit of cosmic glitter.
Ally pulled out my old trumpet this week. She’s done this occasionally in the past but really stuck with it this week. Each day she’d pull it out and march around the house, playing. Or pretending to. Or trying to. She is surprisingly good at getting a natural sound out, but it’s… a bit unrefined. She has no problem with volume however.
By the third day, I started to step in and offer help. I could show her scales, look up lessons on YouTube, or help with her posture. Then I stopped. She was happy. She was learning in her own way. She was enjoying herself. What else really mattered? There would be plenty of time for tone, proper finger position, and breathing exercises. There was no need for efficiency, or optimization, or Dad’s critiques. Not yet.
Help them find what they love even if it might threaten your long-term hearing.
By far the hardest thing about working and parenting and schooling from home has been the explosion of glitter usage and the wildly age-inappropriate craft kits. If I have to get off a call and finish weaving and tying one more intricate bracelet pattern… I just don’t have nimble fingers.
But after that, it’s been the lack of separation between home and work and the multitude of times I have to say ‘No’ each day. It’s draining and by the afternoon I feel like a tyrant.
Just like there is a day when you will pick them up one last time. They are only going to ask you so many times to listen to their horrible jokes, or judge their ‘talent’ show, or help with their homework. If I keep saying ‘No’ at some point they’re going to stop asking.
Dad is too busy. Dad isn’t any fun anymore. Dad is too judge-y. Dad doesn’t get it. Okay, they already say that last one about Disney shows, craft glue, and Jojo Siwa.
They are both going back to school full-time in a few weeks and most of me is overjoyed but there’s another part that doesn’t want to waste these last chances for a hug or an aggressively illogical riddle at 11 a.m.
Except for the fairy dust glitter. Happy to waste that. It sticks to everything is not a feature, it’s a warning.
I’m signed up for a duathlon in six weeks. I’m excited to have an actual live race to look forward to and structure some training. My self-motivation has been flagging in the last month. Too much dark basement. Too much treadmill.
One aspect of training that I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve gotten older, is mental toughness. Youth is fast but weak, I now tell myself.
I was listening to a conversation with performance psychologist Jim Loeher on the trainer this week. I was hoping for insight into how to get my legs to stop complaining and run better after a long bike ride. I did not expect parenting advice.
As we near the one-year anniversary of parenting in a pandemic, I keep coming back to the idea of good enough parenting as a touchstone to stay calm and confident and less anxious about the long-term effects of all this on the girls.
Good enough parents do not strive to be perfect parents and do not expect perfection from their children. Good enough parents respect their children and try to understand them for who they are. Good enough parents are more concerned for the child’s experience of childhood than with the child’s future as an adult. Good enough parents provide the help that their children need and want, but not more than they need or want.
Now if only my kids would consider the concept of being good enough children when I’m on a work Zoom…