Home > Communication, Family, Love, Parenting > We’re growing together

We’re growing together

My four-year-old son tried snatching a tape measure from my husband, Anthony. Anthony cautioned him to ask for the tape measure politely, but Li’l D ignored him and grabbed for it again.

I cautioned Li’l D, “You’re going to lose a story if you keep snatch–”

I couldn’t even finish the sentence before he turned a sour gaze my direction. “I don’t want you to read me a story!”

“Okay, I won’t read you a story tonight,” I told him before turning my attention to Anthony. “Since I’m not reading him a story tonight, I’m going to walk the dog now.”

recently reading dadAfter walking the dog, I settled onto the couch with a new novel from the library. I could hear Anthony and Li’l D whispering to each other in Li’l D’s bedroom. I couldn’t hear every word, but I could tell the discussion revolved around why I wouldn’t be reading to Li’l D.

I’d only made it a couple of pages before Li’l D snuggled up next to me on the couch. He nuzzled his head into my neck with a murmur of, “I’m sorry, Mommy.”

“It’s okay, sweetie. Thank you.”

Now will you read me a story?” He pulled away and smiled at me.

I smiled back, but shook my head. “No. We already discussed that.”

“You’re not my friend anymore!” He flopped back onto the couch and flailed in frustration.

“That’s okay. You get to decide who’s your friend. I love you anyway.” I reached to rub his belly, but he shoved my hand away.

“I don’t love you so much if you don’t read to me.”

“I’ll read you plenty more stories, Sweetie. Just not tonight. Tonight, you not only kept doing something we asked you not to, you talked over me and earned a consequence you could’ve avoided. It’s just one night, though. We’ll read tomorrow, same as always. Do you want me to sit with you while Daddy finishes his story?”

“No! I want you to read me a story!”

“We already talked about that,” I told him before calling out to the bedroom. “Daddy? The little guy might need an escort to his bedroom.”

Anthony came and collected Li’l D. I stared at the book on my lap and debated getting up to write about the exchange. I shook my head at myself and resumed reading. Why write a story only partially completed? I thought I knew how the story would continue the next morning, but I wanted to sit on it to be sure.

I was groggily scanning emails when I heard a cheerful, “Good morning, Mommy!”

“Good morning, sweetheart!”

Li’l D cheered. If he says “good morning” and I say he needs to go back to sleep, he knows it’s not really good morning time yet. When I echo his “good morning,” he knows the day is his–ours–and he celebrates. It doesn’t matter how the night before went down. To my little guy, morning means a new day and a new set of chances.

I turned on a light before sitting on the couch, where he nestled up against me for a few lovely, quiet moments. I tickled him for a little, relishing his giggles before he asked his favorite morning question. “Can I watch some TV?”

“You can watch one episode after you finish your homework,” I replied.

“I have a great idea! I could watch TV and do my homework.”

“That doesn’t work so well. You can watch one episode after you finish your homework.”

We sat side by side at the dining room table. I sketched a few capital R shapes for him to trace. He ignored them, launching into drawing R-like letters all over our test page.

“Sweetie, you start with the tracing so you can see how the letter is supposed to be written. It’s not a circle with two legs. It’s like this.” I tried showing him, but he was fiddling with crayons.

“Sweetie! Please pay attention! We can finish this super fast if you watch how it’s done.”

“I already know how,” he grumbled.

“If you already knew, you’d be doing it like the ones you refuse to trace. Let’s write a few together so you can see how it feels, okay?”

He agreed, and got the hang of it within a couple of minutes. I scooted back to give him room to finish the worksheet, but quickly got antsy about how he spent five seconds writing for every minute he spent staring into space.

A dozen Rs in, I pointed out he could already have watched one whole episode of My Little Pony if he’d moved a little quicker. He stepped up the pace and finished a page of Rs written pretty darn well compared to where he’d started.

bots n poniesI was still feeling pretty chill, but my mood darkened when I realized he had numbers to write, too. The week’s assignment felt like the longest assignment he’d received all year. Of course, if we’d worked on homework instead of playing “bots-and-ponies” (in which My Little Pony and Transformer figures band together for alternately good and nefarious purposes) the night before, there wouldn’t have been quite so much to do. I vowed not to take any grumpiness out on him since planning these things is parental–not preschooler–duty.

Twenty minutes later, with only a few numbers written, my patience was fraying. “You could have watched two episodes in this amount of time! You have five minutes left to finish everything, or we’re out of time for an episode this morning!”

“But I want to watch one!”

“I know you do! You need to focus and finish your work for that to happen.” I got up and gestured for Anthony to help Li’l D wrap up the rest of his homework. I wouldn’t help anything by being grumpy.

Thirty minutes later, Li’l D and I stopped at a light en route to preschool. Homework hassles were light years away in his memory and heart.

“Mommy?”

“Hmm?” I replied.

Li'l D and Cashier sittin' in the tree

“I love you!” he burst out, prompting me to break into a grin before reaching back to squeeze his leg.

“I love you, too. So much. What I don’t understand is how you got so big!”

I glanced at him in the rear-view mirror. He threw his arms up in emphasis as he shouted his cheerful answer. “By growing!”

I laughed as we began to drive.

Indeed. We’re growing together.

Thursday night’s story withholding and Friday morning’s homework frustrations are all facts of my parenting experience and my son’s childhood. And that’s just it: they’re parts of a bigger story.

I recently wrote here about why I emphasize the good over the bad in my posts about others on my blog. It feels even more important with parenting, where focusing too much on hard incidents blinds me to a more complete wider angle view. Still, writing that there are grumpy incidents is different than writing about some of them. It’s been more than a year since I shared this gem, so I thought I’d keep an eye out for an opportunity to write about at least one new one, for similar new gems are shaped weekly in my home. I play a role in them. I don’t want my blog’s relative quiet as to the grumpy moments to be read as indicating it’s all sunshine and unicorns here, because it’s not. Sometimes the grumpy moments get grumpier than those captured here, but they’re always fleeting.

When I decided to keep an eye out for a new grumpy incident or set of incidents to share here, I was determined to write about them not as vignette but in context. Yes, we have our grumbly moments here in my house, and I’m part of them, but we have many loving, lovely moments–more by far than the former kind!–and I play a role in those, too.

We grumble. We snap. We glare. We get a lot of things wrong. But we do those in between many, many moments of laughing hard, loving hard and lifting each other up.

I’d bet it’s the same at your household. So after you’re done shouting or griping, I hope you’ll step back and see the goodness of the whole picture, yourself included, or at least trust that you’ll see it again soon. There’s more to parenting than any one incident.

Beside that, spending too much time fretting about what was done yesterday leaves little energy for doing things better today.

As parents, it’s important to spare some kindness for ourselves today. Even on grumpy todays.

It’s not just our kids who are growing.

We’re growing together.

Hand in hand: much better than either in the garbage can!

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  1. March 11, 2014 at 7:20 am

    Being a Mom means being an enforcer, a teacher, a preacher, and a cheerleader. It means being overworked, tired, and grump-ity at times. It means exhilaration and happiness and tender moments at others. It means giving your kids enough rope to hang themselves and being available to swoop in to save them when they ask for it. I have two teenagers right now. There are daily battles. DAILY. It’s exhausting. BUT, EVERY SINGLE DAY I say, “Have I told you yet today?” They’ll say, “No.” and I’ll say, “I love you.” Even when I’ve just been fussing at them because the house looks like a tornado of shoes and laundry and homework and books and papers all over the floor. Even after we’ve had the four thousandth argument about why they can’t play Minecraft all night long. Even after I make them go finish up the dishes that they didn’t finish when I asked the first 4 times.
    Each day is new.
    I knew I’d done my job well when after an argument with my 13 year old daughter, I said, “Okay, we’re leaving now. No matter how mad you are, I love you.”
    Five minutes later, she called us while we were driving to a play, in tears. “I was worried that you’d be in a car crash and die and you wouldn’t know that I LOVE YOU!” My heart melted.
    One day at a time. One lesson at a time.

    • March 11, 2014 at 9:14 am

      Your comment reminds me of a conversation with my son’s “nana” early on in her caring for him. She told me she made it a point to have her last words every day, every time they parted, be “I love you.” She said she did that because (a) it’s true, and because (b) you never know what might happen after that parting. Now I feel weird if my last words are anything other than “I love you.” I always make a point to tell him I love him in bouts of grumpiness, no matter how grumpy I am or he is, just no matter what so he understands my love is not contingent on anything.

      Just last week, my son made a heart shape with his hands as I usually do for him when dropping him off and I melted. I’m hopeful these little steps now will lead us to have the kind of conversation close you had with your daughter here. That is lovely. ♥

      One day at a time. One lesson at a time.
      YES.

  2. March 11, 2014 at 7:24 am

    This is absolutely true! There are parenting moments that I’m not proud of – I don’t have patience, I don’t stand my ground, I get in a bad mood. It’s hard to remember sometimes that I do those things in between baking cookies with my son, playing the same game over and over, and sticking to my guns so that he learns a valuable lesson. Sometimes you lose focus and perspective and you feel like you’re not doing anything right. It’s so important to keep track of the good and learn from the bad. That’s the only way to learn and improve!

    • March 11, 2014 at 9:19 am

      Sometimes you lose focus and perspective and you feel like you’re not doing anything right. It’s so important to keep track of the good and learn from the bad. That’s the only way to learn and improve!
      Exactly! When I think “I can’t do anything right,” it inevitably spurs me to ask myself, “Anything? Really?” and then I can look only a few minutes back to something I did do well. I try to find what I can take away from the grumpy moments, and I do tend to do better next time a like one comes up. But still, I know there will be long, exhausting days where I’ll have to accept that it’s going to be a lesson-learning kind of ay.

      I’m glad for those grumpy moments in retrospect, because I remember how my mom’s having them and then apologizing–and discussing them with me–made me appreciate her humanity (in a kinder way than when I was telling her there was NO WAY she knew more than me about anything, *cough*). When I make mistakes now, I see it as a valuable lesson to Li’l D . . . much better than my beloved sermonizing! It doesn’t always feel great, but there’s merit in it. πŸ™‚

      • March 11, 2014 at 2:13 pm

        I don’t always remember, but I try to apologize after my mistakes also. I think this is one of the most important things I can do. How can I expect him to acknowledge and learn from his mistakes if I don’t show him how?
        It doesn’t feel good to swallow your pride and admit your faults, but what I do love is the feeling I get when I realize I’ve been going about something the wrong way and figure out another way to do it. It gives me hope that by parenting in a loving, thoughtful way I can raise my son in a way that gives him lessons and tools to live a happy and successful life.

  3. G M Barlean
    March 11, 2014 at 7:47 am

    Fun to hear about parenting from this distance in my life. That’s all behind me, and some day I’m sure I’ll be hearing my children talk about it. It was exhausting, yet rewarding, if I remember correctly!

  4. katy
    March 11, 2014 at 8:15 am

    made me all tingly Deb. Your home is very much like our home. Emphasizing the good is so important. It’s so easy to drift into griping or negativity when really the good outweighs the bad. So why do we focus on that? Thanks for the jolt of love this morning. Also, I’m not looking forward to homework, but trying to stay positive about it.

    • March 11, 2014 at 9:26 am

      It’s so easy to drift into griping or negativity when really the good outweighs the bad.
      That’s exactly it. I remember early on in my blogging days, when it was just a small group of friends, one of my friends mentioned that it was all REALLY good or REALLY bad with me. The comment was perplexing at first, until I realized that he took what I was writing about as indicative of my overall life. I explained that, no, it was only the really good or the really bad that was worth writing about. Still, that’s stuck with me since. I’d love what I write to reflect how I really take things, which is that there are some hard circumstances and hard days (which is okay) but that overall, life is full of sweetness. The more I work on seeing it, the better I can see it. So I work at it, and get better, and am so delighted how the work leads me to see all the light around me more clearly.

      On the homework front, it can be surprisingly sweet! Some days are harder than others, but it can be neat to witness the process of discovery unfold on the more focused days. The other days, we generally stick to the easiest parts of homework and know it will likely be a little easier tomorrow. πŸ™‚

      Love you!

    • March 11, 2014 at 2:23 pm

      Haha, I’m dreading homework also…I didn’t do it when it was my knowledge and grade on the line, it will be a challenge to change my lazy homework habits. But worth the effort!

  5. March 11, 2014 at 9:25 am

    I loved this post on so many levels–as a parent, as a pediatrician, as a writer. Two things you said really resonated with me: “To my little guy, morning means a new day and a new set of chances” and “spending too much time fretting about what was done yesterday leaves little energy for doing things better today.” The first one because children are indeed resilient. They let go of their grievances so well. If only adults could, too. And the second because that sums up life as a family perfectly. We’re a family one way or another so we might as well move past the things we can’t change and focus on doing them better next time. πŸ™‚

    • March 11, 2014 at 7:40 pm

      My favorite thing my son has ever said is, “I already said it’s okay!” He’s said this a few times after I’ve apologized more than once for the same thing. His irritation for my revisiting something he’s already written off is a great reminder for me.

      Part of my take on this is based on what I remember from being a child. My mom was great about apologizing, but she kept beating herself up over wrongs done months and even years before. Thinking back on that from the vantage point of a parent now makes it so much easier to see what is and isn’t a good use of my time, even if sometimes it’s easier than others to act on the knowledge. πŸ˜€

      • March 12, 2014 at 3:00 am

        Yes, being able to let it go by both parties is important.

  6. March 11, 2014 at 9:26 am

    I thank you for the reminder to see the good in the grumbly situations. I find that lately my husband (the kids’ step-father) and I are constantly having to have conversations with the kids. It seems that there is something that presents itself every day that we have to address. Particularly in regards to not taking responsibility for choices or chores and for any attempts at manipulation on their part.

    While many times I would prefer to just NOT address it, to simply just go on without having to constantly deal with the hard stuff, Brad reminds me that we must have the conversations with the kids. That it’s our responsibility to parent them even when we’re tired of parenting them about the same thing over and over. That our responsibility is greater than just telling them “no” or “that’s bad”, rather it’s about teaching them how to be good people, respectful of themselves and others around them.

    When I have that reminder, which seems to be needed more often lately, I find myself looking at the bigger picture. While I usually end up causing more issues between Brad and myself over defensiveness of “my kids”, I realize that their step-father truly loves them and truly believes in co-parenting these children to grow up and be good people. After my inappropriate defensiveness subsides, we always discuss that the kids are good kids, and they contribute a lot to our family. But, they are kids after all, and need our guidance to grow up and be caring, kind, and loving adults.

    After some introspection since reading your post and typing this, I think some of my happiest moments are watching the family dynamic after a “conversation”. Brad and I always have discussions with them together. And while I expect the kids to become angry with us, with their step-father, they never are. The joking and laughing and kidding with us will start up again, with no resentment or anger. I love that part… That they listen (mostly) to the corrective conversation, and then we continue being the family that we are… With sweet smiles directed at us and hugs goodnight.

    • March 11, 2014 at 7:43 pm

      Your comment, which I’m still mulling over, reminds me a lot of some of my non-parenting discussions. This is a good eye-opener for me!

      It’s hard to imagine some of the conversations I might have to have with D someday. Honestly, I cringe when I think of some I had to have with my mom. I think there might be a lot of conversation. I hope I will find the patience to persevere through them when even the thought of them now makes me tired.

      Mostly, right at this very moment, I’m grateful for your candor and food for thought . . . and glad, too, for the loving partnership between you and Brad. ♥

  7. March 11, 2014 at 1:02 pm

    Yes – kindness even on “grumpy todays” is something we live by in our house to the best we can. It’s not always easy, but whenever I or my husband get frustrated, one reminds the other that sooner than we think, our little guy is going to run off into his own life and we’ll be left with a giant void. Parenting is definitely a never-ending learning experience, for our kids and for us. Thank you for this great post πŸ™‚

    • March 11, 2014 at 7:46 pm

      Thank you! The fleeting passage of time is a huge motivator for me, too. D didn’t understand why I burst into laughter when he said, “By growing!” I couldn’t find a way to explain it yet–that I know the mechanics, but don’t understand how quickly it can be happening. Each day I’ve found myself thinking “I wish this day would end,” I realize I’ve just willed away time, of which we already have precious little. So I try to be loving now, even when grumbly; sometimes I miss the mark, but I hit it more often mindful of where it’s located!

  8. March 11, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Yes, we DO grow together as a family…if we’re doing it right. All families have grumbly times, and that’s OK as long as we forgive, forget and focus on the happy times, as you have.

  9. March 11, 2014 at 1:49 pm

    This is a real story Deborah, one I’m sure many parents will attest to. The challenge of a child can be so strong and when you realise that the person you are contesting with is a quarter your size, it can be shocking. There is many a time I felt the same when dealing with my boy as a child. The times I came from an encounter bruised and guilt ridden, convinced I was a terrible father. But your so right in describing how life just keeps moving forward in their big world, while sometimes as a parent you lie wounded. The children give us lessons everyday so we can teach them. By the way, your boy going for the tape measure is a strong indication of a fabulous career in Interior Design. We are never without a tape measure as one of the tools of the trade, so maybe he could take an internship.B

    • March 12, 2014 at 12:00 pm

      The challenge of a child can be so strong and when you realise that the person you are contesting with is a quarter your size, it can be shocking.
      This brought a couple of specific moments vividly to mind! I was walking somewhere with Li’l D just a few days ago when it hit me how small he still is in size. He’s such a huge part of my mind/heart/life, and his opinions so loudly and clearly communicated, it floored me to realize how much of all that could fit in one small frame. I suppose it goes to show, yet again, that size is not as important as some like to make out!

      Your comments about interior design made me smile. I think he’d love such a career and, indeed, tape measures has long been one of his greatest fascinations. I even considered including a picture of him as a two-year-old intently measuring things out, but decided that was an image best left for my cherishing. πŸ™‚

      • March 13, 2014 at 5:58 pm

        Deborah, I wonder often how you get the time to get through the number of things you must have on your plate. Not only do you make wonderful comments on my work but you do so for many all the while taking care of a family (growing) and setting down some great provocative post yourself. You are a super-woman and not only do I value your kind comments, I shall never take them for granted as I appreciate the effort it must require to do so. Thank you.B

  10. March 11, 2014 at 6:34 pm

    Thanks for sharing the little moments. I don’t have to do homework with mine yet, but it’s nice to imagine the future. Or just imagining when they can say “I love you.” What a beautiful thing.

    • March 12, 2014 at 12:02 pm

      The first time hearing those words is magic. Just magic.

      Even remembering, I’ve gotten something in my eyes . . .

  11. March 12, 2014 at 6:10 am

    I’m not having kids, but I think it is so important for parents to stick to their threatened punishments. My sister wouldn’t listen to me with my niece on this and now she is a spoiled brat that doesn’t respect my sister. And I have no sympathy for her.

    • March 12, 2014 at 12:05 pm

      The challenge for me is in uttering something and then wondering, “Was that the right thing to do?” Unless it’s something I’m really uncomfortable with, I do prefer to stick with it because it’s important to me that Li’l D understand he won’t always get lots of warnings and/or leeway. This time, the consequence wasn’t so bad, but there have been a couple of times following through was probably harder on me than Li’l D. (Fortunately, the worst of them, my husband was there to say, “Good job, Mama. I know that was hard.”)

      I think there are probably other ways to do it well, but this is my way. So far!

  12. March 13, 2014 at 10:31 am

    I should print this out and keep it for when Scout can talk. She’s napping and your blog was my first visit. =)

  13. March 14, 2014 at 9:24 am

    Thanks. I needed this. πŸ™‚

  14. March 14, 2014 at 10:39 am

    Perfect!

    By growing indeed. Yesterday my second grandson came into the world. It was wonderful to be there this time. Hanging out, chatting and sharing. It was fabulous to wander back into the room and smell the freshness of baby Chase and realize there is another little one to love, even better to watch his big brother hold him for the very first time.

    By growing, indeed.

    • March 17, 2014 at 12:21 pm

      His answer made me so happy I burst into laughter! I tried to explain why I was laughing, and why his words just filled me with joy, but I wasn’t equal to the task. Someday, I’ll explain better. In the meantime, I’ll soak up joy in knowing you heard those words as I did. ♥

  15. Mac
    March 16, 2014 at 3:57 am

    Okay, your son needs to stop being so cute and you need to stop being so responsible and grown-up and zen like. You’re both giving me a complex about how I’m not living my life graciously enough. Also, I’m not getting enough hugging, even if I schedule it. UNFAIR.

    • March 17, 2014 at 12:24 pm

      LOL! I don’t want him to stop, though–just as long as he keeps on showing his little kid side, too! Most days, I hear words like “you’re not my friend!” and am touched to be reminded just how little he is. In those moments, I’m delighted by the strangeness of seeing someone who takes up such a huge place in my heart/life actually isn’t even four feet tall, and has so much left to learn.

  16. March 16, 2014 at 6:44 am

    Are there sweeter words than β€œI’m sorry, Mommy.”?

    • March 17, 2014 at 12:25 pm

      I love those words! When I hear them, they make me feel glad that I finally figured out how important it was to say them myself. πŸ™‚

  17. st sahm
    March 17, 2014 at 5:59 am

    Your son is sharp!

    I use the line, “I’m not your friend. I’m your mother!”
    Parental love and care is unconditional which transcends friendship. Stick with your good path. He will realize just how big your love is.

    • March 17, 2014 at 12:29 pm

      β€œI’m not your friend. I’m your mother!”
      We have a variation on this, too! “Mother first, friend second.” We’ve talked about this before–how being “mother” means making sure he’s safe, sheltered and fed above all else, even if those priorities mean he doesn’t especially like me sometimes. It’s always fleeting, at least at this age. πŸ˜‰

  18. March 22, 2014 at 4:56 pm

    You’re doing such a great job setting boundaries with him and teaching him to be a responsible, loving person, Deb! I’ll be he’s going to be an excellently helpful little brother!

  1. June 14, 2015 at 4:21 am

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