Friday, May 20, 2011

Life lessons with a 4-year-old

image from the amazing Ali Edwards

Today was another one of those days when I had to re-evaluate my parenting skills.

It all started with preschool graduation this morning.  We checked Miss A out of school so she could come with us to watch her brother.  Grandparents came to celebrate.  Parts were memorized, songs had been practiced, baths were given, and de-Man was ready for his big day.  His class came marching up the steps from the basement of his teacher's home to her family room, ready to take their places in front of their adoring parents.  But when de-Man got to the top step, he broke down and was not to be calmed.

He wouldn't continue on to the front of the room with his friends to find the seat with his name on it.  He wouldn't sing the songs with his classmates he'd been practicing all year.  He wouldn't say his part that he'd worked hard to learn.  He wouldn't go up at the very end after the program to accept his book filled with pictures and memories from the year and hug his teachers.  He wouldn't say goodbye to his friends.

I went through a range of emotions sitting there watching the program with him on my lap.  Sad that he was missing out on his time to shine.  Frustrated that there was no convincing him he wanted to be part of it all.  Disappointed that everyone came but he didn't participate.  I tried to get him excited to join in.  I tried expressing disappointment to urge him to give it a try.  As a parent, I felt like there was nothing I could do. My attempts seemed to bring more tears and escalating sobs, and the boy has always been a noisy crier.

I've learned some things about this sweet boy today.  While he seems at ease around people and will begin volunteering information and talking the ear off any stranger who shows interest, he has a real fear of being in front of large groups.  In primary at church he's had several opportunities to participate by saying a prayer or sharing a scripture, and only recently after three separate attempts when I ended up fulfilling his assignment has he gotten comfortable enough to be in front of everyone.  I think it catches me off guard every time because Miss A was a very shy toddler and he is so opposite around people that I forget a large audience is still very overwhelming to him.

I've thought a lot today about how I might have handled it differently.  I'm not sure I've come to many conclusions yet.  I want my kids to learn that they follow through on commitments and do hard things, even if they don't want to.  But I also understand that he's FOUR.  He has a lot of years ahead of him to practice that, and I don't want to push too hard too soon.

The most crushing part was when the reality started to set in later today of what his choices meant.  He wanted to go visit his teachers.  He wanted to play with his preschool friends.  I had the hard job of trying to explain that he'd missed his chance to do those things.  Preschool is over for the summer.

This is my child who moves at his own pace.  His letter to Santa last winter said, "Dear Santa, I'm still thinking about it."  Getting him to make a choice could easily turn into an all day affair.  I want him to learn to be decisive.  I think it's essential to his future.  And I want him to learn that some situations have time-tables that you have to function within.  Learning that certain situations in life don't give second chances is a difficult lesson.

There is always so much to think about as a parent.  When I put it in perspective and realized that the things that are mentally/emotionally taxing right now will only multiply a thousand times as my children get older, it's enough to send me into a tail-spin.  But I know that somehow, we will muddle through and figure this out.  My relationship with him is more important than any preschool graduation, and I hope I communicated that to him today.  He will learn these life lessons...I just have to realize it will most certainly be at his own pace.

1 comment:

alli said...

I'll be honest, I haven't read this post, but I wanted to say that the quote you chose to go with it is one of my all-time favorites. I have a little print out of it hanging above my computer monitor. The one you found is much prettier.