Lately, I’ve been noticing that my kids don’t hear me. It’s strange, you see, because I’ll be standing in the same room with them—sometimes right next to them—but they can’t hear a word that comes out of my mouth. They can’t hear if I whisper, and they can’t even hear if I yell. They just simply can’t hear me.
If I didn’t know any better, I would think they need their hearing checked. But I’m fairly certain their hearing is fine. All I have to do is open a bag of anything sweet, and no matter how far away those precious children are, their ears will pick up the crinkle of an opening cookie package. And if I try to have a quiet conversation with my husband in a separate room, they suddenly are right by our side, wanting to know why we just said the words present and kids in the same sentence.
So it must be something else.
I must have turned into…
Once, when I was little, I watched my mom call up the stairs to one of my brothers to ask him to do something. And I thought, “How does she know what to ask him to do? How will I be able to think of anything for my own kids to do?”
Well, I learned how to do it.
A little too well.
And I am seeing that I use this “skill” too much. I’ve learned that my kids’ brains are only interested in a certain number of “Stop thats” and “Please do this on your way to do thats.”
So I’m trying to check myself.
Before I wreck myself.
I’m one of those moms who will see an idle child and immediately put said child to work—even if the child is standing around having a nice chat with me.
This is problematic.
Some of my best memories involve me sitting at the kitchen counter and blabbing about my day to my mom while she cooked dinner. Sure, she could have sent me to do one of the many undone chores on my list. She could have coerced me into helping with dinner. But instead, she let me sit and talk. And if I keep giving my 9-year-old new chores every time she comes to talk to me, she’s going to stop coming to talk to me. And while quiet and peace would be kinda nice every now and then, I really would rather my children talk my ears off than avoid me.
So I’m trying to stop assigning chores at the first sign of a break. I’m trying to stop myself from correcting my kids if they aren’t doing anything terribly wrong. I’m trying to let them just do their thang.
And when my attempts are successful, everybody is happier.
My youngest, Rex, woke up the other day with his tiny dinosaur toy in his hand. “This is my baaaaby,” he cooed while he cradled the little reptile. “I love her.”
(There’s a tiny dinosaur in that hug.)
He carried his dinosaur with him all that day, snuggling his face in for a moment of bonding every now and then. Then he decided she needed a blanket. So he went to our kitchen towel drawer and helped himself to a hand towel.
My first instinct was to tell him “No.” I didn’t want the kitchen towel dragged all over the house, and I didn’t want it lost somewhere. I knew we had doll blankies in a toy box somewhere that would be a better size. I was just about to guide his hands to put back the kitchen towel and take him to the doll box for a “proper” blankie when I stopped.
In a flash, I realized I have too many kitchen towels, and they aren’t expensive. Who cares if this one gets lost or dirty? More importantly, I realized Rex was developing a nurturing skill and he had come up with a solution on his own. So I decided to not interfere.
(There’s a dinosaur in there.)
He carried his tiny dinosaur in a kitchen towel for the rest of the day. The towel was too big, and the dinosaur kept getting lost. When we walked his sister to the bus stop, we traveled at a snail’s pace so he could properly nurture his favored dinosaur of the day. The poor reptile fell from her too-large cocoon of comfort half a dozen times, prompting hysterics from her concerned toddler caretaker.
But I learned something new: When I stepped back and let Rex’s idea play out, I was still there to help. Suddenly I was playing the role of dinosaur protector, returning her to her nurturing owner each time she fell. And Rex’s gratitude at my help was always shown with a big grin and a giant hug.
I still had the opportunity to teach him. But we were figuring out how to do things his way—together.
It was just a kitchen towel and a tiny plastic dinosaur. Rex will never remember that day. But I will. Because it showed me I can be taught how to cooperate, rather than dictate.
I hope I can master the skill before the teenage years.
I want more dinosaur/kitchen towel moments.
QUESTION: What have you learned to “let go” since becoming a mother?
CHALLENGE: Take some time this week to slow down, listen to your kids, let them solve some of their own problems, and stand back and marvel at the everyday moments of whatever phase of life you’re currently in.
This article originally appeared on Rebecca’s blog here.
Edited for Power of Moms by Kimberly Price.
Images provided by the author.