This is going to seem like parenting 101...so for all you EXPERTS out there, move on. Woah, that got ugly fast. I just mean that when you say this idea out loud, it seems obvious. But, in the nitty gritty of life, THIS is the first thing I forget. Ok, is that enough dramatic buildup for a new paragraph?
The parenting rule/truth that I constantly forget is...
Kids are (little) people.
I warned you. Seems obvious, right? But the daily implications are numerous. I have to reflect on this elementary, super obvious fact everyday when my plans, hopes and dreams are yet again derailed by a little person. And because I’m in a listy mood, here are a two things I constantly re-learn because of my two little people.
#1: You can’t control them.
I first learned this lesson when it came to kids and sleep. On the roller coaster that is the daily nap schedule, you can try your best to hit the snoozy window, read the books, sing the songs, shut the light-canceling curtains and blast the white noise -- but when it comes down to it, you can’t MAKE your kid sleep.
Yep, it's a classic “you can lead a horse to water, but can’t make them drink” scenario. I actually often reflect on that idiom for comfort. If it’s a cliche, that means there are many horses, babies and people who are not doing what they need to do, even with the perfect conditions. Dethroned nap-masters love company, I guess.
Two and a half years into nap wrangling, I’ve loosened up on tight scheduling. And on most days, if naps don’t go quite as planned, I can shrug it off. The world has yet to end, even if my kid is overtired.
I’m even trying to be cool as Elliott slowly seems to be dropping his one and only nap. ONE AND ONLY! See? Totally cool. Right? RIGHT?! I’ll stop yelling. Aaaand in the interest of full disclosure I edited out like 5 paragraphs that delved deeply into his napping patterns these days.
I guess it goes to show that if I have that much to purge on the page that I’m still learning this lesson, one missed nap at a time. It just means my kid is growing up. And goodness knows, I can’t control that either.
#2: They won’t progress in a linear fashion.
This one I attribute to Rob Bell. I just started listening to his podcast and one of the first episodes I heard was called “Seeds and Switches.” He presents a simple concept that has really helped me give more grace to my boys and myself.
He basically says that after the Industrial Revolution, people started seeing humans as machines. Like flip a switch for instant change, instant “stop doing that thing that you hate that you do,” instant forgiveness.
But, that’s not how it works.
People are more like plants. We grow. We plant the seeds of change and it may take a long time before we see any growth. But each day we need to celebrate any progress and recognize that some days there won’t be any at all. And some days we may take a side step. And some days we may straight-up regress!
I think I really bought into this whole flip-a-switch idea without really thinking about it. And with Elliott, who has recently re-surfaced his extreme distaste for leaving places, I’ve realized that teaching him to recognize his emotions and find ways to calm down is (unfortunately for this mama who wants desperately to avoid more public displays) more of a process.
But if he learns it, he’ll have deep roots of emotional intelligence and health to take him through a lifetime! I would absolutely LOVE if there was a “no more fits after the library program” switch hidden somewhere on Elliott’s sweet little two year old mind, but there’s not. And my “stop worrying” switch also seems to be non-existent or rusty or in deep disrepair.
So I continue to plant seeds. Celebrate small successes. And wait for full blown change. It’s coming, a little bit at a time.