When your kids are so different...
“Get your shoes on right now!" – I am yelling for the fifth time.
My younger son, unfazed by the increasing volume of my voice, is leisurely making his way down the stairs while reading a book. The older one, tired of waiting for his sibling, is already messing with the dog.
We are running late for the teacher’s conference. I jump into the car after managing to get kids out of the door and try not to speed through the neighborhood. Of course, all the slow drivers in town are in front of me and I find myself talking to their taillights with irritation.
“I'm sorry. What mama is doing right now is not good. Don’t do this yourself. But you know how upset I get if I am running late. Try to get ready faster next time.”
The last phrase is directed mostly to the slowpoke of the family. I continue to lecture them about importance of being on time, but the younger one is humming to himself and the older one is fidgeting. They probably haven’t heard a word.
We make it to the school one minute late. My younger child's teacher talks for half an hour about how smart he is and how he broke all the records on test scores. We calmly accept it as a fact of life. Then my older son and I cross our fingers while going to his school. He tried hard this year and hopefully we won’t have to deal with any Cs. His teacher is done in five minutes. All is well. He sighs with relief knowing that I won’t be cutting down any sports. I know that he would happily play football twenty-four seven if I let.
When you let them be themselves...
How did I produce such different children?
“Slow down!” – is a constant reminder that flies over my older son’s head without producing any results. He swallows food in seconds, scribbles his schoolwork as fast as possible and runs outside. All of this while his younger brothers is still separating ingredients on the plate.
“Hurry up!” – is another useless phrase in my house directed to the younger child. He dresses slow, saves his candy for later and sits for hours on end with a book. We tried soccer. I smiled apologetically to other parents as I watched my sweet boy dancing around the field, waving at me and pulling his socks while other kids ran circles around him chasing the ball. And that’s with a brother that I can’t keep from running, jumping and tumbling. From now on the baby of the family is excelling at piano lessons while his sibling is tackling others to his heart content on the football field.
The older is so easygoing it is hard to get him to pick up his socks. The younger keeps his cloths organized but often get emotional about little things. “Don’t pester your brother! Don’t yell at your brother for pestering you!” – comes out of my mouth on a daily basis. But the truth is they can’t live without each other and I can’t imagine my life without them.
When you start seeing their strengths...
I used to be upset over my kids’ perceived shortcomings. Why can’t my older child sit still and be responsible about his homework? Why can’t the younger get ready on time or be less irritable? Then I realized that I was comparing them to myself and my own strengths. I wanted them to value what I valued, to consider important what I considered important, and do things the way I wanted done. But was I the ideal standard?
I had to admit that these two individuals that came out of me were now separate people. They had distinct personalities different from my own in many aspects. I began to accept my perfectly imperfect boys the way they were. I decided that I did not want to change them. I wanted all of us to appreciate each other’s strengths and learn from each other.
I started to replace “Because I said so” with “This is important to me” and “This is why I think it’s important”. I ask for their feedback. “It really gets me upset when you do this. What can we do to fix it?” I still have my non-negotiables but I let them in on the conversation. We talk about why the housework needs to be done and they pick their chores.
I want them to learn that it is Ok to not see eye to eye and still get along. With two kids that are opposites of each other it’s a constant work in progress.
When you accept yourself...
Once I let my kids be less than perfect, I had to give a little slack to myself as well. I often felt guilty for being an imperfect mom. I would sometimes look at other women who were so patient, so encouraging, so happy for their kids tiniest efforts, always smiling, always taking time to explain things while having a perfectly clean house, fresh makeup and tasty meals.
And here I am a busy tomboy mom, roaring at my boys, always rushing, telling them to get a grip, demanding to have things done on time, expecting nothing but the best results from them and constantly pointing out ways they can improve. I would get upset at their slip-ups and then get mad at myself for being too harsh. But as I discover more about myself, I see that I do give them my best. It is all I have and they love me not for what I do but because I am their mom.
It became so much easier to parent when I took off the burden of having to be perfect and expecting perfection. I am flawed. I have buttons that can be pushed. I make mistakes. I have bad days. Instead of beating myself up, I apologize on the spot and ask my family for support. As I started to be open about what I needed from them I learned that kids understood more than what I gave them credit for.
When we all help each other grow up...
I do what I can to help them grow up into responsible adults but my job is not to create certain types of people out of my kids. They have already been uniquely created by God. My role is less stressful. It is to provide opportunities and support as they discover who they are and how to be the best versions of themselves. They are helping me as well.
Ultimately, we are all together in this never-ending process of growing up.
P.S. And no matter what, to our kids we will always be special. They know that we want the best for them and that we love them... even if we think candy is evil and give it to them only once a year (while hiding it in the drawer for our night snack).