BUSY IN BRISTOW: Captain of Control Learns to Let Kids Steer Own Ships

| September 21, 2014 | 0 Comments | Busy in Bristow

In the midst of getting back into our old routines, some of us are getting used to new situations in life. Our cousin just got married this weekend, one of my good friends is expecting her first baby, and at the advanced age of 97, my great aunt has had to move into a new assisted living home because the one where she was is being sold.

Now, I don’t know about you … but in the balance of routine and change, I like to be the one calling the shots. There’s nothing I dislike more than uncertainty. Parenting, however, continues to teach me dozens of lessons, and one of them is just how little control I have over regulating the lives of my children.

Take Youngest Son, for instance. He’s a very smart kid, and I’d like him to come home and get his homework done lickety split so he can go do what he wants to do … mine for gems in the backyard, collect bugs and stare at them under his magnifying glass and build new ecosystems in the backyard.

But the problem-solving skills and creativity that endear him to us also make him our resident day-dreamer, our absent-minded professor.

He’ll come home after a long day at school, and he’ll spend an hour floating from one thing to the next without ever getting a snack or even starting his homework. I want him to have this time to unwind; after a highly structured school day, I imagine he needs it, but somewhere in that sixty minutes, we tend to lose track of exactly how long he’s been meandering until it’s time to go to CCD or Scouts or his friend has come over to play.

When he realizes it’s too late for a snack and now he’s stuck waiting another hour for dinner, he looks at me in alarm. He’s the darling kind of kid you can’t stay mad at, but that doesn’t mean you don’t want to scream at him in the actual moment when everyone’s ready to leave the house except for Professor Boy who’s in his sock feet wondering where he put his sneakers this time.

Youngest Daughter doesn’t want to eat cereal in the mornings, and she barely gets any breakfast in her at all unless I let her eat a little later … something we’ve figured out how to manage now that I’ve stopped fighting with her about finishing her Cheerios.

Speaking of fighting, the day I stopped arguing with Oldest Son about the never-ending cascade of clothes all over the bedroom floor was the day it worked itself out. A friend of mine helped me with that one. “Does he go to school wearing smelly, dirty clothes?” she asked. “Never,” I told her. “So, what’s the problem?”

As much as I like to run a tight ship for my children – and this year my job again allows me to do just that as I am home with them in the mornings and waiting at the house when they get off the bus – it’s also clear to me that we all have innate personalities that need to be honored even if it means Mom’s ship doesn’t run quite as smoothly as she’d wished.

So this is what those parents who had “been there, done that” meant when they told me to “pick my battles,” and let my children suffer the “natural consequences” of their actions.

It seems that the only real problem I’ve got is thinking that it’s my job to steer the ship 24/7 when the truth is each of my dear, growing children have already started to take off in their own boats, cruising away on mini day-trips, holding on – quite capably – to their own rudders.

© 2014, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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