It was the night before the kids were returning from summer break. Despite every effort over the past 72 days to get my son to finish his summer reading, there it was an untouched copy of the paperback book.
There were those conversations about how wonderful the book is, the great characters, how the teacher would love to hear what he thought of the book. Then there were those mentions of; if you don’t read it you will get a bad grade, this is not the way to start the school year with a new teacher, all your friends will be talking about the book and you will not be able to join along. Then came the threats of; you can’t go on the computer until you finish the book, no more playdates until you finish the book. Then the compromises; I will read it with you, we can take turns, or I will just read it to you. Just sit here and listen and I will read.
As 8:00 p.m. approached I was counting the pages, seeing if there was actually time for me to read him the whole book that night. I started furiously reading out loud, skipping sentences, then pages. Excitedly, I say, Chapter 2, and as I read the title, my son who was lying on my bed, grabbed the pillow and put it over his head. I started tearing up the book. Ripping and ripping and tossing the pages and chapters and throwing them like confetti in the air. Exasperated, I fell into my chair. My son, looking in complete shock. I took a few breaths, picked up the papers and attempted to make it look like a book with cover and all. I apologized. He did too. Then walked him up to bed and kissed him good night and laid out his clothes for the first day of school. As I walked back into the kitchen I grabbed some tape and started wrapping up the book with tears flowing from my eyes.
I can save you some time from beating yourself up for days or the guilt when we have these not so great mommy moments by sharing a few things with you that I have shared with my summer camp staff.
One, we all have them. Moms. Dads. Guardians. Teachers. Caregivers. We are human. We make mistakes. So own the mistake. Just give yourself a big “Oops!, boy did I mess that one up”.
Two, it is important that we show our children how to apologize. Letting them know we are sorry for something we did, especially when we did something that was not right
Three, it is not my homework. I have had to learn that my kids issues are not mine. If they get a bad grade in school, it is their grade not mine. If they are struggling socially it is them not me. I can guide and support but the emotional attachment to the issue needs to be separate.
Four, it is ok for them to fail. Better to learn these lessons at age 8 than 40. Not being prepared has consequences. Learning this lesson himself will develop his own work ethics. Since then he always finishes his work long before the deadlines.
Five, learn to take yourself out before you do something you will regret. Sometimes it feels like there is nowhere to go. We can’t go outside and leave our children alone. We can’t just get in the car and take a ride… GO TO THE BATHROOM! I found just taking a seat (make sure the toilet seat is closed) and gathering myself together, then rinsing some cold water over my wrists gets me back to my executive functioning state where I can be more reasonable in dealing with my child.
There are going to be times when kids test our patience by not doing what we want them to do. To learn we can’t control other people, but we can control how we react.
Allison Corey Miller, Founder, Happy Camper Live