From Caretaker to Mentor

As the seasons change, so does the status quo in our house.  My oldest is 8 and my expectations of him are growing almost as much as his feet.   Building character and confidence are the development milestones up ahead.  Half of the reason is – I can’t keep up.  There are too many things that need my attention every minute of my day.  The other half is – I realized I may be doing more harm than good by helping my son through the daily minutia of his third grade life because after all, if his parents don’t teach him, who will?

Day one of the school year started with the boys staring wide eyed at the clock in their room anxiously waiting for 7:00 am, the hour they are “allowed” to start their days. Adrenaline and excitement successfully powered them through the first day.

Day two and Noah refused to get out of bed, get dressed, and eat breakfast. I asked nicely and then I moved along and turned my focus to preparing for my day.  It was clear that even after a good night of sleep, he was running on fumes and so, I let him be.  I’ve learned that crankiness is usually exacerbated, not thwarted, by nagging.  After I bit, I noticed he got dressed, moved from his room, and was quietly playing with Legos.

Good. Progress.  And still, no nagging.

He made his way downstairs, toasted a mini-bagel for himself, and took his seat in the car without incident. There was no yelling.  No pleading from me to eat more.  No extra snack packed.

In better spirits that afternoon at pick up and without any prodding, he reported how STARVING he had been before lunch and that he will ALWAYS make time for breakfast before school. I am still surprised at the restraint I showed when an “I told you so was so clearly deserved.”  I settled for an internal high-five.

Day three, he forgot his back pack at home. He was nose deep in a Big Nate book on the way to school and didn’t realize his oversight until we arrived.  Thankfully, it was Friday, my day off, so my stress level was low and I kept my cool.  Enter another teaching moment.  We circled back home and grabbed the bag.  This time, his consequence was being late to school and a warning that if this happened again, I would not go back for the bag.

These low risk lessons in natural consequences are the best kind! He’s learning to take responsibility for his things and that it’s ok to make mistakes. I’m practicing letting go more and nagging less.  We will both be practicing these skills until we’re old and grey with no end goal, but to keep trying.  To be better every day.  Through that lens, the school year is off to a great start.

Thus far in my momming career, I could sum up most of my tasks as functions of my primary role as caretaker: giving baths, brushing teeth, and the like.  As the kids get older, my role as a mother has transitioned from doing all the things to showing them how.  I will not drag him along, impeding his growth with every strained step.  Instead, I will guide and walk beside him through this wild life until he races ahead of me.

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