I recently came to the realization that I am constantly giving my kids instructions – an endless, 24 hour a day, run on sentence providing them with an order of operations for all of life’s minutia. I tell them to: go to the bathroom, get dressed, eat breakfast, and that’s only in the first 30 minutes that they are awake. I am often giving these directions at an escalated level of volume. (Some may refer to that tone as yelling. It’s a possibility, ahem.) By the time I make it to the end of the day, I am frustrated and scrambling for some throat lozenges and tea. My unscientific calculations indicate that this approach is 17% effective – – on a good day. I tried to switch things up a bit in hopes of consistently getting better results and part of that strategy was to eliminate the constant instruction monologue. I decided to let go and let my older two children be more independent and take more accountability for the tasks they are responsible for completing and their stuff (Good grief, the STUFF). After all, if I ever expect them to be productive adults I have to shut up long enough for them to actually be able to think for themselves.
Fast forward to a Saturday morning a few weeks ago when it was closing in on 8:00am and my husband and I were lazily waking up from a good night’s rest. Needless to say, with a dog and three kids 6 and under living together, this is definitely an uncommon occurrence. When I got out of bed and went downstairs I found my two oldest children sitting in their Pottery Barn Anywhere Chairs happily watching Wild Kratts.
I paused. And then greeted them.
Noah (6 Year Old): Hi Mommy! I turned the TV to channel 24. Because that’s our morning channel. And I made waffles. Two for me and two for him (points at little brother who gives me his trademark crooked smile – confirmation that his older brother is speaking the truth).
I glanced around the kitchen and notice that indeed, the wicker stools usually stationed around the kitchen island are pushed up against the counter conveniently close to the toaster. There is a glass jar of maple syrup on the table. A dirty plate and butter knife (!) in the kitchen sink. Noah bounds off his chair, grinning ear to ear…”See?!?!?”
When my husband joined us downstairs I let him know what he was walking into: “Our son prepared breakfast.” He looked at me and asked “I’m not sure how I feel about this…”
My thoughts exactly. I felt the familiar bittersweet and conflicted feeling that often accompanies milestones.
This past year, kindergarten brought our son a new sense of independence. A transformation into a total Big Man On Campus. School days brought glances across the hall at his little (by a mere 22 months) brother in his pre k classroom and chuckles at the sight of cubbies. You see, Kindergarteners have lockers. It’s not that he was condescending about the situation. It was clear; however, that he was taking note of the differences and benefits of being the first-born. And then there’s the whole reading thing – – that in isolation is enough to give any six-year-old some extra confidence. I guess even though we acknowledged the higher expectations at school, we didn’t exactly anticipate how they would translate at home. I am expecting even bigger changes now that he is in first grade.
Remember when your six-year-old was an infant? You could place the baby on any flat surface and reasonably expect the baby to be there when you returned from the bathroom, for example. As the baby gets older and stronger you know your days are numbered. When that infant starts to encroach on the four-month mark you probably take more precautions because you know it could be any day now. There are likely no indications whatsoever that it’s coming. Then one day it just happens. The baby rolls over. You hope it’s not the day you leave the baby on the bed.
All this to say, when my son decided to showcase his autonomy…I’m glad it was only the toaster.