On a walk the other day, I noticed a little girl (maybe 6 or 7) sweeping leaves off of the sidewalk. Suddenly her mom swooped out of the garage and snatched the broom out of her daughters hands and picked out the leaves and dirt from the bristles as she walked back to the house. “You can’t use this broom, its for indoors. You are supposed to use this one!” I overheard her say as she threw a different broom in the direction of the dejected 6 year old. The little girl seemed embarrassed. She huffed and grabbed the outdoor broom and shouted “You don’t understand, this one doesn’t work!” and then she threw the broom on the ground.
I turned a corner in the sidewalk at that point, and I’m not sure what happened next, but I know what I would have done as a mom myself a year ago. I would have yelled back something about how she knows the rules about brooms and maybe punished her for having such a defiant attitude.
Later that day I watched a neighbor putting in a fence with his teenage son. Dad was impatient, complaining about his son’s effort and correcting him for leaving tools around and forgetting this step or that step. I found myself wondering again. Is that father really accepting the help his son is offering him? Or is he thinking of what the kid could theoretically be capable of?
These scenarios got me thinking. How many times do adults say to kids “Do you appreciate all your parents do for you?” And as a teenager myself not too long ago, I can say truthfully that I did not truly appreciate everything. I couldn’t even begin to understand all of the stresses that come with earning and managing your own money, the worries and time spent on parenting dilemmas. I really had no idea. But I did appreciate my parents. I saw the incredible amount of work they did every day to take care of us, the hours spent talking with me about some issue or another, the fact that my parents stayed married to each other through thick and through thin. I saw it, and I appreciated it. But how often do we ask the question of parents?
Do you appreciate your kid? I find as a parent it’s easy to fall into the trap of appreciating what my child could be, instead of who they are. We live in a culture that worships potential. We get excited to see what our kids could do, and we forget to celebrate what they can do already.
Could that mom appreciate that her 6 year old daughter wanted to help sweep? Could my neighbor celebrate that his son was spending his Sunday afternoon helping him instead of playing video games with his buddies or whatever? Remembering the countless times my efforts didn’t measure up to my parents expectations made me sure that I would never do that to my kids! But in reality, I do the same thing at times.
I get frustrated with my one year old when she still wakes up several times through the night, but if I think about it, she’s pretty amazing! Not only is she learning how to eat new food, and move and use her limbs in co-ordination, she is learning a whole new language. While “helping” me sort and fold socks, my 2 year old kept turning individual socks inside out and putting them away with the socks that were actually folded. She was convinced that she was folding. It drove me crazy!
I’m quick to get fed up with my oldest daughter’s behavior in particular. It embarrasses me how many times I’ve expected more of her because she is “older”. What is wrong with being 3? Nothing. Can I accept and love her even when she acts her age? I have an amazing daughter, right where she is at. Right now. She can unload the dishwasher with me, put her own socks and shoes on, help me pick up toys, and enjoys learning her letters sometimes. She wants to snack constantly, is forever begging to go outside, and strips down to her underwear the moment we arrive home from anywhere.
Kids want so badly to please their parents, the trick is being able to be pleased.
I don’t know why I find it hard sometimes to accept and love my kids for who they are today, instead of resenting what they are still incapable of. I mean, of course I love them, but how many more times am I going to have to wipe that bottom before she figures out how to do it herself? How many times do I have to empty their “purses” full of junk they’ve collected at the end of the day? When are they going to grow out of the whole “take out every toy the minute we’ve finished cleaning up” thing?
But the truth is, my kids accept me just the way I am. Even when I make a really boring lunch, or I take a few minutes of dragging my feet to get to changing that diaper. They don’t inspect the thoroughness of my sweeping job, or hate me because I yell at them sometimes. Its kind of humbling really. The trick is, being willing to be pleased. If an adult guest had been helping around the house and used the wrong broom, would that mom have corrected her the same way she did her daughter? If I had an adult friend who requested a snack would I roll my eyes and tell them to wait until lunch? Do I appreciate my kids just as they are?
Can I be pleased with my children even when they act their age?