Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Learning Curve

Being employed as an educator should give me a leg up in the motherhood department. As should my genuine affection of children. Not so. The difference between working with children who you don't go home to everyday or appreciating the delight in making a young child smile who doesn't know your buttons is great. And the truth is, I do have a wonderful advantage. Except, it's still hard.

I'm constantly wondering if I'm making the right decisions. I have no idea what three minutes of this day Jay will remember twenty years from now. I have no idea how the messages he receives from me will impact how he feels about himself when he's older. So I worry. Needlessly, I suppose. What will be, will be, right?

I worry about everything. If my expectations are too great. If I'm being unreasonable. If I'm too hard on him. If I frustrate him. If I'm too lenient on him. (After all, he's the oldest. He's the experimental nephew!) I worry if my discipline methods are too harsh. (Restricting Ipad and computer usage for being too tired to take out the trash isn't too severe, right?) I worry if I let him get away with too much (like telling his babysitter to "shut up" and chalking it up to his being in a foreign place.)

Do I still need to hold his hand when we cross the street? Obviously, no. And yet, sometimes he reaches out for it and how do I let him know that I will always be there to hold his hand, even when I'm not. And then there's coping with having this "tween" in my house who is embarrassed with my hugs and kisses one moment and hops out of bed to plant another one on my cheek. (That's probably a stall tactic though.)

I worry because some aspects of life are already hard for him. Mainly school. And yet, he has such a pure heart that I'm sometimes compelled to just cultivate his sweet spirit and make sure he stays as loving and attentive as he is right now. All the academic success in the world can't compete with kindness. I love his character. I love that he helps, that he wants to help, that he listens and obeys (as much as any nine year old) and cares. I don't think you can teach that.

Still, this week hasn't been without challenges. We haven't done as much "work" as Jay let on. And each time it was met with crying, whining, pouting, door slamming, and raging tempers. I think I've remained calm for the most part. I'm really good about reminding him of the consequences of such behaviors before they occur so that once it happens I'm less likely to engage him and I just state in a matter of fact manner that he can't watch tv, or use the computer, or play on the Ipad, etc.

I hate the idea of "taking things away." I'm not entirely sure that his almost 10 year old brain makes the connection between his present actions and his future options. It's hard to see the parallel between lashing out in anger or frustration because of not wanting to do something he needs to do (write his blog post) and the obstacles he will undoubtedly face later in life. I'll push him now to get these things done because life does get harder and I don't want him to give up on himself when the tough gets going.

And the tough gets going, Jay. If you're reading this, when you read this, I love you. But life's not easy. It's good. It's fun. It's hard. It's sad. It's happy. It's breathtaking and backbreaking. And I just want you to be ready. For all of it.

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