There is one parenting struggle I would gladly live without. You could remove it from my life and I wouldn’t care at how it might disadvantage my children.
If I could live without it, I might even give up coffee, travelling adventures and chocolate.
Ok, no…not all of that…but I would give up coffee.
There might be nothing more annoying than hearing a ribbon of nattering children all day long. Watching them battle over the last Twizzler, a costume necklace, whining “that’s my cup“, yelping “she has more candy rockets“, demanding “I want the blue cup“, tattling “she won’t help me buckle up”…she’s bossy AND tells me what to do, she got two turns, I want to go on the automated horse first, I want to put the loonie in the cart, I want to stand on the end of the cart…
It is…drum roll please…whining, complaining, tattling and general squabbling.
WHAT? You too? You would give up coffee WITH me?
Instead of visiting over coffee, you could come over for an afternoon of gin & tonics…hahaha. Can’t you just see us hazily chatting while the kids play Legos or Barbies in the other room? It would certainly change the face of the homeschool movement.
Stop the presses!!! New research asserts homeschoolers at higher risk for alcoholism…
But I digress…I think I won’t be taking to the drink any time soon, since I’m too occupied checking math questions and loading the washer at 3. At least I am too busy for an afternoon nip…
I asked a group of homeschool moms recently if there was a permanent solution for all this interpersonal trouble.
My question either blindsided them or they wondered what well-meaning, though idealistic nonsense I thought I bought into when I entered parenthood. Children without whining, complaining, tattling, arguing, hitting??? Is she SERIOUS?
Apparently, I’m holding on hard to pre-parenting idealism. The my child would never do that! syndrome. Or, I wouldn’t let my child do THAT! Or, if only those parents would listen to my sage advice, even though I’ve not parented a child, syndrome.
So when non-homeschooling parents drop their jaws and declare that they don’t have enough PATIENCE for homeschooling, I want to chortle, chuckle, sarcastically guffaw: You must think I’m superhuman; I don’t either!!
But I am coming by the learning of patience honestly.
Lots and lots and lots of practice (or potential practice, ha)…
On some days, I get so much exposure to irritating stimuli and acknowledge my inappropriate reactions in response to that irritating stimuli, that I can’t but stare myself down and say: You have GOT to get a grip!
Patience is really just understanding played out in moment-by-moment practice. And I am S L O W L Y coming to understand my children. They are my personal sociological research, which if I am being honest about my inconsistent parenting approaches, I am experimenting on them.
Ironically, I repeatedly hear that I have great kids. Ok, I know they are great (I really do–you might have noticed that I talk about them a lot); but just like they know they have a great mom ;), they also know that I am not always so great. Vice verse.
Just a couple weeks ago, we were twelve hours north of home, living in someone else’s house temporarily and living in the thick of snow so deep that you’d have to dig out the mailbox. We needed a change of pace from cabin fever, so we brought our studies into the public sphere, a coffee shop.
We sat with my coffee and a couple canned drinks and played a Professor Noggins ocean game for a good long time, unaware that someone was watching us. A fellow came over and said hello, asked the familiar question, are these all yours? and blindsided me with a question I’d never heard spoken so eagerly, kind of like someone asking a celebrity for an autograph.
You have really lovely children. What are you doing that your kids are so well-behaved and nice?
I didn’t really know how to answer that (since I got my first paragraph of this post from the morning before we’d headed to the coffee shop). I am never shocked by charm, but honest and warm curiosity from a stranger, well, that caught me off guard.
My only response was: They’re with me all the time.
Yup, I hear ya. This might also explain why they can be intolerant of each others’ imperfections, impatient, sharp, sarcastic and quick-witted (in a not-so-kind way)….
If I’m also honest with myself, I am usually kind to people. So naturally my children will be nice too.
I try very hard not to charm people, but to listen to them…to hear their heart rather than insist they understand my heart. I’m aware that most people just want to be heard, because in this world, people are usually acknowledged through notoriety, belongings or some other superficial reason for value, not for the implicit reason of being BORN–and therefore born with intrinsic value.
I am also not afraid of people. I was, but I worked my way slowly out of that and now I recognize that whether it is understood or not, we’re all human. No perfection. Yet neither perfectly imperfect either. Everyone’s just trying to find a way to live a life of meaning and purpose, to honour truth and find their happy place despite a continual barrage of troubles. So I recognize that I appear confident. And mostly, I now actually am.
And I like to have fun. I’m not afraid for other people seeing me do it, even in a coffee shop with my four kids in the middle of a school day.
So maybe being with me all the time, my children reflect all that.
Still, there is enough conflict, trouble, frustration in my household, that though I would LOVE to believe this stranger’s kind words, I know that what he sees isn’t static, and a lot of the good he sees exists because of a LOT of hard work.
As one of my kids so aptly stated: Mom is the marmalade; we’re the pieces of bread. (What mom really is: an unpaid counsellor…if only I could run the tab at $150 an hour).
Perhaps my kids tattle because I listen to them. I could tell them to go away and figure it out for themselves (and I have, and in some circumstances, I think I still should). But I believe that the only solution is to let go of the notion that they will take my wise interventions and never require being told again how to deal with their troubles. But that hasn’t actually happened in my heart or day-to-day experience; I’m working on it.
Their issues are real. No, they aren’t real to me. Sometimes their complaints seem INANE, I won’t lie. But their concerns are real for their little hearts. What do I think they’re going to be frustrated over–Declining stock dividends? Outrageous Canadian home prices? Putin Park unfinished for the Olympics?
No, they’ll be fighting over the last Twizzler, complaining of bossing, etc, etc…
And herein lies the opportunity to teach them to deal with their issue.
1. What have you done about that? Funny that the mom of thirteen suggested I ask this question when the kids come running at me. I actually have asked this question loads of times. It assumes, and requires, that you have thought about and attempted to solve your own trouble.
2. Have them talk it out in front of you. Yup, I’ve done that plenty too. This requires you stop what you’re doing and engage them with care. But it’s a great way of teaching them what words are stoking the fire, or helping them to understand the other, and teaching them what words and what tone really help to dispel conflict.
3. Require them to listen to each others’ issue. Have them listen, but also reflect back what they heard their sibling say. It’s remarkable to me how many frustrations occur simply because of misunderstanding. I would know–I’m also married. The mere act of clearly stating another’s belief about something makes that person feel heard–even if you completely disagree with them.
4. Perhaps they’ll just have to agree to disagree. Or figure out a compromise. Negotiating is not fun; it requires effort and doesn’t make everyone happy all of the time. Sometimes it’s simply required when two or more are gathered together.
Okay, so now that I’ve written it all down, I feel a deeper sense of accountability to actually follow through, so that when you do come over for a visit, you’ll see me actually do what I say. And we can have a cup of coffee…