Wednesday, July 23, 2014
When the kids were little, of course, I did it all. That's when my control freaky nature was helpful--I had to take care of every little thing, so being detail-oriented was a perfect trait for the job. Then Jacob started to transition to just "needing a little help" and he'd roll with the rest of the job himself. Cooking dinner?
Me: "Figure out what you want to make."
Jacob: "Stir fry."
Me: "What time do you want to serve dinner?"
Me: "And how long will it take to prep and cook it all? Work backwards from six and that will tell you when you need to start prepping."
Jacob: "Hm. I have to start now."
Me: "OK, take out all your ingredients: chicken, veggies, sauces, rice, oil. Then your tools: cutting board, spoon, measuring tools, knife, bowls, pot, pan."
Jacob: "Got it."
Me: "All right, all your stuff is assembled. Now what's going to take the longest to cook? You want to start that first."
Jacob: "The rice. OK, I'm good, Mom. You can go."
Sweet. Now, Jacob can do all these steps himself without my help. I figured I was well on my way to being demoted. Next, I tried to help Ben do the same type of thing: take control of whatever he's trying to accomplish, with me standing by and handing him the tools he'll need.
Then I was reminded that my kids are two completely different people and don't operate the same way at all.
When I offer Ben tools, he seems to keep lifting his hands up, as if the tools are too hot to handle, and he'd rather I do it for him or leave the job undone.
The problem is, my control-freaky nature is trying to rear its ugly head back up, and I know that's exactly the wrong tool for the job.
Take riding a bike. Ben never learned how when he was younger. We did get him balancing on a bike with training wheels years ago, at the end of the fall. I could see we'd be able to remove the training wheels shortly, and he'd be on his way. Then a snowstorm hit. Several feet. Power outages, school closed, the works. And just like that, bike-riding season was over. The following spring, he had no interest in getting back on the bike.
"That's OK," I figured. "They say once you learn, you never forget."
This summer, I tried to get him on his brother's (bigger) bike. He was not enthusiastic. I pushed it. He conceded, grudgingly. It wasn't long before we both learned that, apparently, you can forget how to ride a bike, especially if you'd only learned for about five minutes.
But I can't let it go. I keep pushing him to learn, and to learn to swim, and do all the things kids are supposed to do in summer, acquiring skills they can carry into adulthood when they will ultimately NO LONGER NEED ME AND MOVE AWAY TO START THEIR OWN LIVES. Ben is having none of it.
I remember talking with him once about "someday", when he's married and living in his own house, and he cut me off and said, "Mom, I don't ever want to leave. I want to live here with you forever."
I've read that the more you push a kid, the more he will resist. But rather than step back into the do-it-all-myself role, I'm going to try a different approach. I'm standing right beside Ben. And just like when he was a picky eater as a baby, I just keep handing him the same tools over and over. I change the form they take, or the way I hand them to him, but I'm making it clear that they are not going away.
My hope is that, with a little maturity and a realization that I have faith that he can do these things, he will one day decide to take the tools and give them a try. I figure all he'll have to do is surprise himself once or twice with his true capabilities, and he'll be confident enough to be on his way too. Then maybe I'll be able to get that demotion after all. Hopefully before he's twenty-five.
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