It is February now, and the Anderson's are back on the "Entitlement-Ending" Wagon. If you have no idea what this is, you can reference a much earlier post here. For the rest of you, it is good to be back on the wagon. We have had two breakthroughs in the past week that I wanted to share, so here we go. . .
My daughter is not a risk taker. She is terrified of failure. On the plus side, once she decides she can do something, she does it perfectly the very first time. Parenting her, from a safety standpoint is a piece of cake. We never worry about her getting seriously hurt and know that her internal "safety meter" is always functioning well. She didn't take her first steps until she was almost 14 months old, but once she stood up she just walked. No falling. No scraped knees. No bumps or bruises. Same thing with riding a bike.
On the down side, it has been a nightmare teaching her how to read, to tie her shoes, and to play any sort of sport. She is actually our "natural" athlete, but she lacks the confidence to try. Her fear of failure has her paralyzed, so she just chooses the path of inaction.
Our son is the complete opposite. He frequently tackles tasks that are too big for him. He, on regular occasions, falls, has lots of bumps and bruises, and every pair of pants that he owns (except for 2) have holes in the knees. The downside is that we go through a lot of clothes. The upside is that he is an excellent bike rider, fantastic student, amazing rip sticker, and pretty decent little basketball player, too.
So, we have been in a quandary with these two extremes in our children. How do we encourage our daughter to try--even when failure the first time is a pretty high probability? How do we encourage our son to continue to push the envelope--without actually killing himself in the process?
Well, in the spirit of ending the entitlements, Dave and I decided that our kids need to start fending for themselves a little bit more. We have realized how ridiculous it has become--this coddling thing that we do. It all kind of hit me last week when I realized that my seven year old daughter had never poured herself a simple bowl of cereal! What?!? When did I become THAT parent? I'm disgusted at myself already, so no comments please! I guess I have just grown so accustomed to the day-to-day task of making my kids' breakfast that it never occurred to me that they might actually be able to do it themselves.
So, realizing failure number 17,432 as a parent, I decided that this was not okay. On Sunday, when my daughter sweetly asked for a bowl of cereal, I told her, "I think you can do that all by yourself". She seemed perplexed, but inquisitive about the prospect. I quickly realized that I had placed the cereal much too high for either of my kids to reach (I'm 5'8, and have to stand on my tippy-toes to reach the cereal). I'm not really sure why we have always put our cereal up so high--to keep the mice out (we live in the country, remember?), to cover up the fact that Dave and I purchase (and hide) Capn Crunch, Coco Pops, and Cinnamon Toast Crunch that we occasionally consume as treats after the kids go to bed? Don't judge me, I know, it's a sickness!
Anyway, I did retrieve her Cinnamon Life, and rearranged all the other kid friendly cereal to a lower shelf in the process. No, I did not move my "treats", in case you were wondering--I'm a hypocrite, like that! Are you kidding me? I would never let my kids eat crap like that!
I know, I know, it's a process this letting-go-of-my-control-freak-tendencies that I have. I will tell you what I tell my kids: "When you are 18, you can choose to eat whatever you want to eat. Until then it is my job and responsibility to make sure that you eat healthy. If you are unhealthy and/or overweight as an adult it is on you. If you are unhealthy and/or overweight as a child that is on me."
Now that the cereal boxes were all neatly arranged and accessible on the bottom shelf of the pantry, the dilemma of the milk began. Again, we have always placed the milk on the top shelf of the fridge, because it's the only shelf it will fit on, and because I once read a report that milk will go bad if you put it in the door. (Sour milk freaks me out, so I never really wanted to take the chance. Personally, I think it's just a scare tactic by the refrigerator industry to make people buy larger refrigerators.) Apparently, it worked on me. . . . but not anymore. As of Sunday, our milk is now nicely nestled in the confines of our fridge door--within reach of our kids.
Now 10 minutes into this little "teaching moment", the non-risk-taking monster reared it's ugly head in the Anderson house. Our daughter, through moans and wails of despair, announced that the milk was too heavy and that she couldn't lift it, and that she didn't want to spill it, and that she juuuuuusssttt cooooouuuuuulllldn't dooooooo iiiiiiitt! After another 5 minutes of trying to talk her off that ledge, I calmly walked over to the counter, grabbed the milk jug, held it out over the nicely-cleaned stained concrete in our kitchen and began to pour. . . . right out onto the floor. I poured it nice and slow with great drama. The look on my daughter's face was priceless. The look on my husband's face, even more so. The excitement in our dogs was the best part of all though. They went to town on the floors!
Once I was done with my little "demonstration", I set the now significantly lighter milk jug back on the counter and said, "See, it's no big deal if you spill a little milk. The world didn't come to an end, and your dogs are really, really happy!" My daughter, still speechless, started to grin. She grabbed the jug and we tried again. I did help her lift it (it was a gallon jug, after all). Once we had it lifted, I allowed her to do the pouring. She ended up with about 1 part cereal and 10 parts milk in her overflowing bowl. I half-expected her to refuse to eat it with this much milk. However, she gently picked it up, sloshed about 2 parts milk out onto the counter and floor, slowly carried it back to the table and proceeded to eat every last square of cinnamon life in the bowl. She then washed the bowl and counter without complaint. The floor was immaculate by this time, and the dogs were grinning ear to ear, too.
Dave and I are chalking this one up as a victory in our house. One down, 10,000 to go!
Our second victory happened just this morning.
This is a picture of our daughter's lunchbox:
Some of you might be wondering, "What does your daughter's lunchbox have to do with a breakthrough"? Well, I will tell you!
Several days after the cereal incident, our daughter announced that she wanted to take her lunch to school. Fresh off my victory on Sunday, I announced "Fine by me, but you have to make it". Now with a new-found sense of accomplishment after the aforementioned cereal incident, she accepted my challenge. So, this morning, while I was whipping up my omelete, she quietly got all of the ingredients out, whipped up a perfect Nutella-Peanut Butter sandwich complete with a side of freshly washed (with even the stems trimmed off) strawberries, a string cheese and juice box. She placed this well-rounded and surprisingly nutritious lunch in her cute little floral lunch box ready to make it's debut at the lunch table today.
Then. . . . she promptly left it sitting on the counter when she left for school.
Life lesson #792 completed--RESPONSIBILITY!!!!
I LOVE IT!!!
I am so excited about the prospect of the conversation tonight at dinner. "When did you realize you left your lunch at home? How did that make you feel? Will you do anything differently next time"?
So, those are our recent breakthroughs. I hope you find them humorous, enlightening, and encouraging. May you have an entitlement-free kind of day. . . I know I am planning to!