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Saturday, March 3, 2012

Jelly in the Peanut Butter Jar....

I hate those parenting moments that make you sick to your stomach. You know they are necessary. You know that your kids will benefit from them. You know that the lessons learned will stick with them and help to craft who your kids become and you know that one day it will all make you proud. But going through them? I want to puke. We had one such moment yesterday.

We were sitting around the dinner table Thursday night, happily eating leftovers, and I announced to the kids that after dinner we would spend some time getting the house cleaned up so we could get them ready for bed. To which, my son who is 6 responded, "I am just so tired of you telling us we have to clean up." As a blood vessel quietly exploded behind my right eye, and my hands involuntarily clamped down on the table, I answered him between gritted teeth, "Feel free to head to your room. You will finish your dinner when everyone else is done and yours is nice and cold." It was the best I could come up with! And it would give me time to think of a plan while he was NOT in my sightline.

While finishing my now unappealing leftover pizza, I decided. He would have to spend 24 hours pulling off being 6 with no help from me. Aha! This could be genius! Epic! Amazing! Or the hardest 24 hours we've had in a while.

I broke it down for him. "We are a family," I said. "Families help each other. If you are not interested in helping out, then you will have a chance to see what it's like to not have help from anyone else. You can start by washing your dinner dishes when you're done." This did not cause the discomfort it was supposed to. He was excited! He rushed to finish dinner, dragged a stool to the sink and started soaping up. However, it caused me a great deal of anxiety. I'm a bit OCD when it comes to germs and cleaning. I wanted him to do it "right." So I made myself leave the room instead.

The rest of the night went smoothly. Until bedtime. He is used to getting himself ready for bed, brushing his teeth, etc, etc. What he doesn't do himself is fill his humidifier. And we are all white noise freaks. No sleeping without the constant comfort of a low-whir drone. So he comes to me with the humidifier. He had already tried it. It's hard to open.
Him: "I need help, Mom."
Me: "Sorry buddy, can't help."
Him: "Please, Mommy, please. I can't do it. And I can't sleep without it."
He put his head down on my arm. I silently prayed I wouldn't cave!!! And I almost did. 2 seconds from it. And then all of a sudden he said,
"What if I pushed down the part that makes the water come out and fill it that way?" Off he skips to try it and low and behold it worked! I wanted to scoop him up and swing him around for being so resourceful without getting frustrated! Instead, I cooly tucked him in, told him I loved him, and left with a goodnight kiss.

The next day was Friday, yesterday. Homework due. Spelling test. Library day at school. Snow on the ground outside. What would he remember without help? Could I really let him fail if he did? Churning, churning, churning stomach. He woke, remembering the deal and again, excited to do some things himself. He made toast with peanut butter and jelly on it for breakfast. Here is a picture of his attempt:

More J than PB...but not too bad!
After that it was clear he misunderstood, "You are responsible," for "I can do things however I like," because at 35 minutes to go, he was still in his pjs, thinking he was just going to stay home for the day. Uh-uh. With a little redirection, he was back on track. Dressed, (whew) but playing with Star Wars legos instead of getting things ready and together. Then he decided he needed a snack. Which he couldn't open.

Peach cup, via non-sanitized scissors! (Deep breaths, deep breaths!)
At "Time to go" here is where we stood:
He couldn't find his snow pants and was in tears. (because he had left them at school and didn't remember that he had)
He didn't have a jacket on.
He didn't have his homework packed.
He didn't have his library book.
He hadn't made anything for lunch.
Confession: I might have cheated a bit. Perhaps I mentioned in a voice a little too loud than needed that his sister's coat was dirty. Cause he all of a sudden ran from the garage back into the house to go get his. Don't judge.
At school, he smugly told me he guessed he'd just have to eat school lunch, since he didn't pack his. I happily told him he'll be working off the $2 it costs, since he wasn't supposed to eat school lunch that day. I informed the teacher of our day and apologized for her having to be a party to our crazy - she was ultra supportive. I scooted off for home, to wait and see how this all hit him.
After school, he came home, all lovey and huggy. He noticed the washing machine ended a cycle and switched the contents to the dryer. This is not one of his normal responsibilities. He understood when he was told he wouldn't have any video game time, and he ate dinner and cleaned up without putting up a fight.
Things I learned:
This would not be the last time we'd have to talk about such things, I'm sure.
My child can do WAY more things than I give him credit for.
My son might actually be happier with more, not less responsibility.
Perhaps I can occasionally take a break from washing dishes and switching the laundry, especially with a willing substitute.
The world will not stop spinning if all the t's are not crossed and all the i's are not dotted.
My way is not the only acceptable way.
And lastly:

Life goes on, even with jelly in the peanut butter jar.

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