Call it karma, Murphy’s Law, or luck. Whatever it is, this week I felt like I was getting a surround-sound message. The reason? It’s summer and having my three boys hanging around the house propels my anxiety to the next level. The truth is, I don’t know who needs the routine, structure, and consistency of the school year more—me or my kids.
But in the past two structure-less months, my three kids have each taught me a very important lesson about myself and how I am as a parent. It all started very innocently. My oldest son, Dylan, had been staring at his two front teeth in the mirror. Dylan was not happy. From the comfort of my bed, I could hear and see my first-born, type A (plus) child freaking out. Dylan’s two front teeth have been (very) loose for a (very) long time. However, he is perfectly content avoiding any hard, sticky, or chewy food. He is clearly a risk-averse child. On this particular morning, I was tired and my impulsive side blurted out, “Dylan, enough. Let’s tie a string to those teeth, take a bite out of an apple, or let me just pull them out?” Dylan looked straight at me and with his Kleenex in one hand and a washcloth in the other (all part of the careful examination of his mouth), said to me, “Mama. It’s not like that. We can’t just hurry up and do it. It will be in phases.”
I accepted this 7 a.m. life lesson like a champ! I smiled, rolled over and got a few more minutes of sleep. Noah, my middle child, is four years old, and he’s at that stage when everything is questioned and analyzed at length. Like many kids, Noah doesn’t wear a watch, and has no concept of time. I recently found myself standing outside a bathroom stall at the beach, checking my phone while I answered Noah’s questions. Picture me: sandy, sweaty, and hot, standing there answering my son’s million questions. (On this day in particular Noah wanted to know if I liked the Miami Heat or San Antonio Spurs better?) I listened to Noah and tried to have a conversation through the stall door. I answered the questions and explained my answers (I don’t know anything about the Heat or the Spurs). As sweat trickled down my forehead and into my eye, I finally said, “Noah, we need to talk about this somewhere else. I’m hot. Let’s go. Finish up.” Noah remained calm and collected. His voice stern, he said, “Mama. You have to be patient. You always tell me that. So it’s your turn now.” Everyone in the bathroom chuckled. I did too. Noah was right. I did need to be patient, and I was embarrassed that I had been rightfully reprimanded by my very own son.
The last lesson, which came from my 18-month-old son, is perhaps the most poignant. Asher, my third son, is more resilient and resourceful than my other two sons were at his age. He has had chewing gum, played in the mud and rain, and learned many lessons from his two older brothers. But, I am also less patient and much more tired at this point in my life as a parent. So, I decided that Asher would be OK skipping the music class that I had attended with my two older sons when they were his age. After all, he does get a ton of noise, action, and wild experiences just by watching his brothers. So, I let the sign-up slide, and we skipped the summer and fall music sessions. So, when I walked into the playroom, and found my older sons playing instruments and “teaching” Asher the words to the songs from music class, I felt badly. The older two boys were excited to tell me that, “when Asher is old enough to go to music, he will already know the songs!” Sure enough, Asher was swaying, clapping, and mouthing the words to the music. The boys were so proud to teach him and kept reminding Asher that “soon mommy would take him to music class, too.”
Needless to say, we signed up and have attended (most) of the classes. When I’m in the class, I try to focus on Asher, and the 45 minutes that we have together, here and now. I’m not a good singer, I’m not patient, and I really don’t follow the words or have the CDs in the car. However, I have found that the music classes forces me to put my to-do list away. So, as Noah said, it’s my turn. I’m learning, in phases (thank you, Dylan), how to enjoy the art of playing, waiting, and just being with my children. Only 30 days of summer left—not that I’m counting or anything!