Sometimes I have a fleeting thought that goes something like this: is all the hard work of parenting really worth it? It’s a thought born of frustration, on days when all my best efforts at parenting (staying present, remaining calm, being supportive and empathetic and using every ounce of patience I have) still results in two manic children who have a series of meltdowns, tantrums and fits, over anything from having to get ready for school to the fact that I didn’t let them pour their own milk to factors completely beyond my control (“I don’t WANT the sun to be shining on me!!!” [illogical fit ensues] It’s exhausting. And for a moment, I want to throw up my hands, and scream “They’re animals! There is nothing I can do here!”
BUT. There are other times. And they are becoming increasingly common, when my children show a level of compassion and caring that truly chokes me up. The other day Emory Scout had a “throw myself on the floor and scream until I’m red in the face” fit of hysterics (over I can’t remember what) and Gavin came up and gently touched her on the back and said, “It’s ok, Emmer? What’s wrong? Can you talk about it?” Omg, I almost lost it. Best thing ever, to see your kid want to help someone else – especially his (sometimes aggravating) little sister.
Emory Scout is truly generous and kind and will share her last piece of candy with anyone in need (a big deal to a two year old). She is always willing to help out and has a positive, upbeat demeanor 90-ish % of the time (she’s demanding as hell, but very positive about it).
Gavin is a sensitive soul with perfectionist tendencies – he went through a spell where he would get SO frustrated with himself, if he couldn’t execute a drawing exactly the way he envisioned it, or if he made what he perceived to be a mistake. One day he took a drawing he had been working on, crumpled it up and screamed “throw it in the fire!” because it wasn’t perfect. It sort of freaked me out. So I’ve been working with him to understand that everyone makes mistakes and it’s part of the process of learning (it’s the whole reason I signed him up for karate classes, so he could be with other “learners,” in a controlled environment). When he starts getting agitated because something isn’t going his way, I ask him, “Do you want to get frustrated, or do you want to ask for help / take a break / try again?” – the frustration being one choice of many responses.
So this morning really got me – Emory and Gavin were sitting on the bed with me. Gavin was playing k’nex and Emory Scout was trying to watch “Wheels on the Bus” (which is actually the YouTube kids channel on her iPad but it’s what she started calling it when she wanted to trick me into turning it on, since Wheels on the Bus is pre-approved content and some of the other crazy stuff is not – there’s a whole genre of “AH! There’s a spider crawling in your mouth” videos and something called “Johnny, Johnny, Yes Papa” which I find unendingly creepy).
Anyway, Emory Scout was trying to watch Wheels on the Bus (YouTube Kids) and it wasn’t loading properly. Gavin leaned over and said, “It’s ok, don’t get frustrated.” And he started helping her fix it.
Maybe I am doing something right. Maybe all this effort is worth it and I’m raising two decent, caring human beings with a level self-awareness and emotional regulation. Maybe they’re just 2 and 4, and being 2 and 4 is difficult and exhausting. I guess I’ll have to wait and see. In the meantime, I’m gonna try to take Gavin’s advise and “not get frustrated.”