Recently I was chatting with a friend about my ‘season’ of stressing out over my first child and stressing said child out in the process.
What I could see – unzipped school bag. unzipped lunch box. food scraps littered throughout her bag. forgetting to do her chores. forgetting instructions I just gave her right now! unzipped lunch bag. unzipped lunch bag. unzipped lunch bag. unfinished lunches. unfinished morning tea. unzipped lunch bag causing unfinished food to spill into her bag.
I was a bit obsessed with the lunch bag OK? But in my defense – zips were created for a reason, right? Right. Everyone knows that. Everyone but my 7yr old. Or so I thought. I was obsessed with how much of a struggle it was for me to prepare her lunch & cut up her fruit because of my busy-working-mom-of-three schedule and so I expected that she would appreciate all my effort and reward me by licking everything up. I was obsessed with how much I juggled the budget & time to do my grocery shopping only for my precious fruit to end up in the bin. I was obsessed with a lot of things.
Well, I had a day off (as I do once a fortnight) and went to pick her up from school. I got there before the last bell so I stood outside her classroom door along with other moms, then I noticed many of the other moms zipping up their kid’s lunch bags and school bags. Oh, hang on…I thought, so I looked around at all the bags and pretty much all of them had unzipped lunch bags and the bags were all unzipped. Then it suddenly dawned on me – it must be a 7yr old thing, not just my 7yr old. It’s a stage! Of course it’s just a stage Nancy! She isn’t just being disobedient or trying to annoy me, they were probably enjoying their lunch breaks, loosing track of time (as I did when I was 7) and once the bell rang they would be rushing back to class. None of them would be thinking, “hey I better zip up my stuff first.” . She was just being a child. And the unfinished lunches? Well, maybe she was just full or didn’t like the food.
This reminded me of the parenting book I reviewed here on the blog. The authors encouraged parents to distinguish between naughtiness & childishness which would then guide their response to different behaviours. Find the review here.
Casting my mind back to how many times I had scolded her about these issues…and how her shoulders would droop afterward sobered me up a bit because I realised I was reprimanding her for being childish not for being naughty! Why didn’t I work this out & why was I so worked up? Perhaps it’s because I’ve been sort of parenting in isolation. Working parents rarely have time to meet up with other parents to just catch up because even the weekends are busy with extracurricular activities, shopping, cleaning and prepping for the next week. However as a result of being isolated, it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that the issues we face are unique to us. This has made me realise that it is important for me and my child that I make out time for play dates here and there and also just one-on-one time with other like minded moms to catch up on life, laugh at ourselves, share our challenges and encourage each other. We need to remind each other that we’re not alone, that being a mom is challenging but it’s also normal and that this too shall pass so we should enjoy the enjoyable and be patient with the not too enjoyables.
I’ve got a new strategy now. Zips not being used? I just patiently wait for her to zip them up when I pick her up. Unfinished fruit? I just ask her to eat them when she gets home if they’re still OK, then I ask her what she would really like for fruit break the next day. Unfinished lunch? Well, I’m still working on that one, but I try to ignore it or say, “that’s OK” when she apologises and make a mental note to check her serving size with her the next day. In summary, I’m trying to breathe in, let go and remind myself that this is just a stage and I should enjoy what I can, reprimand only when it’s appropriate and remember that my kids are just children.
Over to you – does this strike any cords? Please tell me that it’s not just me, and share what you’ve struggled with and how you’re approaching it. Mwah!
Artist & Lover of God
Seeking to unveil the beautiful rhythms of love, hope and grace enshrouded in the mundane dailiness of the human condition and the spaces we inhabit