I do not claim to have this parenting thing all figured out. And I know I will have moments that feel like a win and others that feel like I’ve failed. But yesterday something good happened.
Yesterday J made a huge mess of alphabet flash cards while I was making breakfast. I asked him to clean them up when he was done playing with them.
Very soberly he looked at me and said “No.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Bc it’s too hard” he said matter of factly.
“No it isn’t.” I said just as matter of factly.
I turned the burner off feeling like the toast can wait Bc it was life lesson time. I got down on my knees to engage with him. First he asked me to do it for him, I said no. Then he asked me to help him clean up the cards, again I said no. Instead I said “You can do hard things.” And I asked him again to clean up the cards. Very hesitantly he picked up a card. I committed in that moment not pick up a single card. But I followed him, pouring worth into him while he cleaned up his mess.
“You are smart enough to do this, you are independent, you don’t need Mommy to help Bc you are smart and strong and capable, you can do all kinds of hard things, I’m so proud of you, look at how much your accomplishing, you’re doing it all by yourself, it isn’t even hard, you don’t need anyone’s help Bc you can do this all by yourself, I can’t wait to tell Daddy how great you did, he’s going to be so proud of you when he gets home to know that you can clean up after yourself. What an independent kid.”
I know.. that’s cheesy. I know this isnt any BIG deal. I know 3 year olds can pick up their toys. But when he was done. He was beaming with pride. He was so so proud of himself. I hugged him and I told him how proud I was of him.
Would it have been faster to pick up the cards myself? Yes.
Would it have been easier to yell at him or default to “Bc I said so” to rule him through fear or shame? Yes.
I believe the work of parenting is front loaded. Investing this time today in building his belief that he can do hard things (even when it’s not a hard thing) is one step in our life long journey that I will take over and over again. But I also know one day I won’t be there to tell him that he can do hard things. That he’s smart and strong and capable. But if that’s what I tell him today, and tomorrow, and tomorrow and tomorrow, and everyday when I redirect him to make better choices. I believe it will serve him well when my voice isn’t there.
What I didn’t expect is what would happen later that day. During the quiet time of the day when the girls nap and I set J up with a snack and an activity and go run on the treadmill. J usually stays downstairs. (Or so I thought) but yesterday when I sat down still out of breath after running my tiny human sat down in the floor with me and asked me,
“why do you say… 10 minutes is nothing?”
-I was embarrassed. Bc I honestly didn’t realize until that moment that I say it out loud. Or if I did anyone else would hear it. But I told him (the embarrassing) but true answer.
“The last 10 minutes of the run mommy is really tired and it’s hard to keep going. So I tell myself that over and over to remind myself I can do hard things”
What came next was one of those fantastic ah-ha kid moments that as a parent make your heart swell. He smiled so big and He told me he was proud of me for working so hard and doing something so hard and that he couldn’t wait to tell daddy how hard I worked.
It melted my mama heart. Bc to be perfectly honest, it is really hard for me to look at myself and take ownership of skills or talents. I’m not trying to be self deprecating, it’s my struggle. But something I do see when I look at myself is tenacity. Is my hard earned successes. Is my ability to get back up. To run 10 more minutes.
(Bc 10 minutes? .. is nothing.)
10 minutes. Is nothing.
It makes my heart swell when Jackson connects like that. Even at the cost of my own embarrassment I know it’s important that he see’s I don’t just preach behavior I model it. Bc I know actions stick in our minds eye better then words do. Picking up flash cards and going for a run aren’t world changing tasks. But pushing yourself just a little bit further then your comfort zone. That’s world changing.
In a world where we so often see fully capable adults sit down and give up and accept defeat at the first level of resistance. It’s heartbreaking. It’s gut wrenching seeing people who choose to accept less simply “Bc it’s hard”
I believe all my babies will have special skills and talents. But honestly, if I can teach them that, that one lesson. That they can do hard things. Not even that the HAVE TO.. just that they CAN. That they can push just a little further then I will feel like I served them well.
Today is a new day. I know as I write this consistency is the thing that makes lessons stick. That yesterday is what we stand on to do better today. So the hard work is on me now. He made a connection yesterday but unless he sees me doing the hard things today and tomorrow and tomorrow. The lesson will he lost.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. But 10 minutes? Is nothing.