So I’m having a hard time with my 7 year old. I am finding myself nagging and reminding and feeling like a mean mom, seriously, completely off center. I know I’m not alone… You know how it is, when you give your child a few tasks to do, or one, and they just move around as if you never said anything at all… Then they say, “Oh, I forgot.”
Oh my gosh, today nearly sent me over the edge. My boy was just…. I don’t know, not in the mood to be cooperative. It was day 5 of being back to school, and day two or so of the new “after-school routine” he wrote up and hung on the fridge.
I met the kids at the bus stop, we got into the house and it was time to do his stuff. Mind you, his “stuff” is having a snack, emptying his lunchbox, making a new lunch, picking a (super easy) job, and reading for 15 minutes to me. He was so not into it, so distracted and taking forever to get through his tasks. I wasn’t pushing him to be fast, I just thought he could stay somewhat engaged… Ugh, I’m not going to lie, it was kind of torture.
I thought I handled it pretty well. I did a lot of tongue biting, knowing that if I got too bugged he would totally shut down, and I so didn’t want to go there.
I tried to encourage him... But I am telling you, it was killing me.
Our after dinner family work time was equally as infuriating, and I found myself working really hard not to cross over to the dark side. He was just so distracted, and wandering around instead of helping with anything. Not defiant, just la-dee-da-ing around…
Then, he took a shower. I asked him what he should do with his towel when he'd finished with it.
“Hang it up.”
“Yup, awesome, thank you,” I said, feeling grateful that my curiosity questions were drawing the knowledge from him, hopefully triggering some memory system of the seven year old brain.
“And your clothes?”
“Deal with them.”
Great, there we go. He knows what to do.
Yeah, not so much. Forty five minutes later, he’s out of the shower, with his jammies on, and we’ve played a board game with his sister. We head into the bathroom for teeth brushing and I notice all the stuff, clothes and towel, are still on the floor.
“Oh, I forgot.”
Holy moly, does that drive you mad when you hear those words from your kids???
“I forgot” is such a cop out.
I have been hearing those two little words a lot lately.
I don’t really remember what I said, but my tone was totally of the are you freaking kidding me right now that all this shit is still on the floor variety. I was bugged. He could tell. He took care of it. And he felt probably sad and embarrassed the at I got so mad and now it was weird and tense.
A little bit later, once I simmered down and was in more of a centered state, I broke it down for him.
“Listen,” I said, ”I feel like there is some backwards movement here. I am feeling frustrated because it seems like when I ask you to do something, you don’t really file it away as important to hear, and you think its ok to forget about it. It’s not. ‘Forgetting about it’ isn’t owning up to the fact that you really didn’t find it important enough to remember.”
“I’m sorry, mom.”
“So it’s time to make the effort to give power to your words by actually following through with what you say you’re going to do.”
We were good then. I felt like he heard me, and that my little speech was effective. I felt as if I really got in there. I was pretty damn proud of what I said.
So sitting here now, after bedtime, I am thinking back to the situations going on when he was “forgetting” to do what I ask and I am laughing at myself. It’s so funny to get to the point or a behavior with your child, feel like you are at the end of your rope, and they you realize you had a huge part in creating the problem.
It is extremely humbling and hopeful at the same time.
So what’s been happening the last few days?
* We are all transitioning back to our school year
routine. Not just the kids, me too
* My husband is working out of town during the week.
* As I am geting used to not having my parter around and the new, busier schedule, I am doing WAY more telling vs. asking.
I am forgetting that there is only a small amount of time I get with my kids each day. I am forgetting that they are learning and practicing life skills, they aren't masters at it. Why wouldn’t I take time to retrain him and work on building our relationship as a bonus? I need to do a little bit more doing with and looking for opportunities to build up our connection. That way he can ease back into the responsibilities that were not practiced so much over the summer, and he knows I am available if he needs me. That sounds pretty darn encouraging to me.
Looking back thoughtfully, I also recognize that my son needs to feel a sense of significance – like what he does (or doesn’t do) matters. By sharing authentic experiences with him, he will realize that contribution and cooperation matter because they keep the big wheel rolling, they matter because everyone contributing is better for the whole. Time together, doing with while connecting, will give him the experience of feeling significance.
And then, the hassles will just disappear... Or they will at least be way more likely to show up way less often.
It’s so funny how we forget. I slip into these little, funny patterns with my kids and not realize I am there for a while till I am feeling low – then I think, oh yeah! I know what’s going on! I am a part of this and I can change it. I start to look at the situation from a different lens, looking for ways that my behavior adds to the problem. And then I work towards changing it.
Then a crazy thing happens
My kids change their behavior too.
Yay for us all.