Last week I was thinking that I don’t have anything very compelling to write about anymore.
After all, I get up, get the kids up (and generally in that order, which is wow and wonderful), hubby or I fix breakfast and get ’em ready, out the door, etc. First grade provides me with six hours to focus on work. The weekdays speed by in a busy blur of work and activity and little down time.
Afternoon/evenings are also fairly routine, alternating with swimming, soccer, piano lessons and trips to the park. During his big brother’s lesson, I generally keep my youngest son out of the living room and occupied. It’s never been a problem. But this past week he informed me that HE is ready for piano lessons. I explained that HE then has to be six years old for that to happen, and he just looked at me thoughtfully.
A moment later, he parked himself on the sofa to watch his brother practice. He stayed there for several minutes.
Eventually I approached him and asked if he wanted to play outside or something (I mean, I am thrilled that my oldest is learning to play, but listening to Camptown Races x infinity times is a little boring).
No, Mama! I’m the audience, he stressed.
He continued to sit there, and clapped wildly after his brother completed each piece, tapping out wrong notes joyfully.
Such are the moments that make this parenting stuff worth it. Unlike, for example, grocery store meltdowns, one of which was unexpected and epic. Those are moments when I prefer to hit my head on something hard and become temporarily amnesiatic.
In line at our local grocer the other day, the cashier asked how my day was going. I offered a generic response. My youngest was in one of the those unwieldy “car carts” that are a hybrid of grocery cart and maneuver warfare strategy number one. I manage to crash into at least two displays per visit as I round a corner or pause to examine produce.
[maneuver warfare, by the way, is a term whereby your enemies attempt to incapacitate you through shock and disruption. Clearly a strategy created by a parent or team of parents who should know better.]
The cashier shook her head. I remember when my daughter was that age, and she.…I can’t honestly remember what she said next.
But this I heard.
She said, parenting, man, you just don’t know what you’re in for. It’s a hard, hard job.
Rather loudly and immediately, I agreed, that’s the TRUTH.
My response surprised her, and she looked up at me, wide eyed, and smiled broadly. We made this immediate connection. She didn’t tell me how cute my kid is or remember to offer him a sticker. She didn’t offer me a story detailing her own kid’s antics at age four nostalgically. Instead, in a reasonable voice, she acknowledged out loud that parenting is not easy.
And it sure isn’t fun a lot of the time. Sigh. I walked home feeling validated in my own feelings about parenting.
The ‘it’s worth it’ moments battle intensely with ‘WTF were we thinking?’ moments often.
Fortunately for the small people in the house, the ‘it’s worth it’ moments won out this week.
One night we allowed the boys to watch a 40-minute show after homework, brushing, bathing, etc. They commandeered the I-pad while their father and I talked quietly in the living room. At about 10 minutes remaining in the show, I gave them instructions to let us know when it ended and added a heads up that bedtime was imminent.
More or less ten minutes later, I called out, Is it over?
No, Mama! sweet voices assured me.
Two minutes later I walked in and checked the screen. They had finished the show and were exactly three minutes into the next episode.
Promptly I shut the damn thing off and gave them their marching orders for bed.
Tears. Defense. Cries of the tricked and the innocent rang out into the night.
The little one and I worked it out. He wasn’t completely guiltless, but doesn’t have as much of a handle of time and orders as his big brother. He was mostly sad that we skipped books.
I let my oldest know how disappointed I was in his decision to continue watching shows despite my clear guidance. It was dishonest and irresponsible. His father confirmed the message. He went to bed in tears, angry, and hardly made eye contact as I said good night.
This type of thing doesn’t happen ALL the time, but it happens often enough to be frustrating and annoying. I shrugged it off, like so many other six-year-old battles.
About twenty minutes later, the quiet but inescapable click of a door opening sounded across the first floor. I glanced up as my ninja-stealth-like boy walked over to me. He usually wants water, a bathroom break, a book, or something else that allows him to stay up late.
He often has to tell me something important having to do with Major League Soccer season stats or when How to Train Your Dragon 2 is coming out at the theater or how to spell raptorsaurus.
I was taken aback, in a most wonderful way, when he proceeded to clearly say,
I have to tell you something.
This is a kid whom I regularly force to say “sorry” when he’s mean to his brother or does something for which he knows better… he says it, and it’s so completely fake. Apologizing does not come naturally to him, probably because 99% of the time he doesn’t see that what or how he’s offended requires an apology.
But this time, after my little speech about responsibility and honesty, well, I don’t know what happened. But something struck a chord within my sensitive boy’s strong-willed heart.
He said he was sorry. He meant it. I accepted his apology, and he gave me the biggest hug.
I know some people aren’t really into apologies. They’re just words, right? Actions speak louder than words, we claim. But hearing those two words spoken out loud sincerely can make the air feel different.
And different air means the day is no longer routine and typical, but rather unusual.
I like unusual.
Like the cashier at the grocery, I like feeling surprised by unexpected authenticity in action and in words.