My son will be seven in May. He has grown so much in the past year and I struggle with how ‘grown’ he acts. There are still glimpses of the little boy in him though. I also struggle to balance nurturing, without coddling. Getting his cereal in the morning or filling that second glass of milk feels like such a small ‘thing’. Lately though, I’ve noticed its become more of an expectation from him. As the number of ‘please’ and ‘thank you(s)’ decrease, it seems as if the number of complaints increase. We very consciously and consistently request he use his manners and made it clear we would not respond to demands. So, naturally he’s found other ways to get his needs met.
He’s turned on the charm. He now uses his ‘sweet voice’ and a keen sense of humor to get his way. Still, it’s not surprising that four days out of seven result in our fetching, cleaning, and/or searching for something for both of our children. Our daughter is impossibly independent, but clean up can be a nightmare. On the other hand our son seems to feel its unfair or even hurtful when we don’t do something for him. Let me give you an example:
“Momma can you find my notebook?” he asks while coloring in his old notebook.
“Sure…where did you put it?” I ask while looking around the cluttered table. “I can start in the place you haven’t looked?” He doesn’t answer the question, but is absorbed in his project. He continues to color and seems confused when I move to the next room.
“…I don’t know where to look. Can you help me look?” he says.
“Sure, when you start looking…I’ll come back and help you.”
“But I can’t find it.” He starts throwing paper and crayons around the table. I more calmly (then I feel) look on the other side of the table.
“Why won’t you help me?!” he says a little angrier.
I take a deep breath, “I am helping.”
He stops looking and continues to complain. Searching for his stuff is too hard, ‘it’s unfair’ and then he starts to cry in frustration. You have got to be kidding me. Am I really listening to a six-year-old cry about how unfair life is because I am not doing something for him? Usually I would have started yelling back and the tug-of-war-guilt-trip-I-suck-as-a-Mom talk would begin. This weekend, I used silence and ‘ignored it’.
I’m comfortable with how imperfect life with children can be. Perhaps he’s tired, or coming down with a cold. I can find excuse after excuse for these moments. At the end of the day though, there is a pattern where both of our children expect for us to do for them as a given. Raising a self-assured child is dependent on demonstrating kindness and compassion, but where is the balance between ‘doing something nice’ and creating a dependent child. So again, where is the balance? Any suggestions are welcomed!