Quitting
Monday, April 2, 2012 at 10:00AM
Elizabeth

It's been a while since I've written, but there's been plenty to write about. We've been doing a lot of quitting around here, and it's made things better for all of us. The biggest thing I've given up is my expectations of situations that have done nothing but make us all miserable.

I try not to push my kids to do things they don't want to do, especially while they're so small. But I somehow forgot this when it came to J and playing an instrument. I never played an instrument, but always wanted to. I sang a little, in school and in a few bands, but I didn't really study music or anything. When the opportunity for J to play mandolin in the neighborhood popped up a few years ago, I couldn't WAIT to get him in there. It seemed so perfect. He knew the instructor and almost all the children in the class, it was nearby, and it was an instrument his grandfather plays and one of my favorites. J was not interested even one tiny bit. After three years of asking him if he wanted to play, I finally gave up. I realized he didn't want to , and it was unfair of me to push him into it. Even if he practiced, and did well, at what cost? It's important that my kids know I'm always on their team, and he was clearly telling me "NO" to this. It took me a very long time to listen, but I finally did. As soon as I did, it gave us the space to see he grasped music theory quite easily, just wasn't interested in actually playing anything.

Quitting with C took a different route. After a session at a Creative Movement dance class, she asked to do "real dancing", so I signed her up for tap and ballet locally. It was a 7 month class, every Saturday, and she started out very excited. As the months wore on, she became more and more despondent about the class, saying she couldn't do it, and didn't know what was going on. Peeking into class, she was usually staring intently at the teacher, but not moving except to pick her nose. She clearly wasn't suited for memorizing sequences yet, but it took many weeks of hysterics for me to figure it out. We quit last week, and this week tried out another Creative Movement class, which she loved. She is an expert at dancing around like a jaguar.

The common theme with both of these, of course, was me. And even worse, I realized one of the reasons I held on so long to the hope my children would do these things, is so I could show them off. My children, like all children, are wonderful, and clever, and talented in their own ways. And they have to be the ones who decide those ways, not me.

J has more knowledge of physics and the universe at 7, than I have built up my entire life. He can thoroughly and diligently explain these things to you, for hours if you let him, in a way that anyone could understand. He is phenomenal with his sister, often taking the role of peacemaker when her and I are having a tough time together. He surprises me with housekeeping and special meals all the time, and always wants to help.

C is wonderfully creative, assuming her imaginary roles with passion, really believing she is the "baby kitten named Ice Cream." She is startlingly friendly and outgoing with new children, always talking about her new friends she meets every day. Her understanding of humor amazes me, making up jokes and rhymes and songs all day long.

These things, I am so proud of, but they are not the "showing off" type of things I realized I was looking for. I felt really, incredibly awful about what I was expecting of them, but mostly WHY I expected it. And it was sneaky. I never pushed them to be the best, or even compete, just to try new things and accept failure as part of the process, so I thought I was letting them take the lead. But I wasn't. I thought I wanted trophies and videos and applause for them. But really, it was my selfish desire for praise, through them, which is so awful and embarassing to admit.

Letting all that go has been hard. To maintain the respect and trust in every situation that they will choose the right path for them is a challenge sometimes. I even felt like, "but it's just this ONE THING I want you to do for ME," and I was taking it personally. Luckily, the children haven't been raised to be blindly obedient, and they persisted in showing me what they needed, even when I couldn't see it. They've been very patient with me through this, and I hope I don't make the same mistake again.

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