She sat there, big blue eyes brimming with tears, lip quivering. My five year old and I’d been sitting on the couch, reviewing her kindergarten sight words. She was having trouble sitting still, I had trouble giving grace.
Why is it a struggle to teach my youngest child something so simple?
- Maybe it’s because I’ve done the “prep for kindergarten” routine with her three older siblings (one of whom still hasn’t got them down, 10 years later) and I’m kind of over it.
- Maybe it’s that she’s my baby, and when we have a rare moment together without chaos, I just want to listen to her sing her favorite Disney songs.
- Maybe it’s because I had to work more hours in these years of my husband’s new business, which leaves a laughably tiny sliver of focus and niceness for “producing” anything in my home.
- Maybe it’s because I’m constantly having to teach basic concepts and life-skills, over and over and over, to her older sisters with mental health and medical challenges and I just don’t WANT to teach anyone else anything. Ever.
(Or maybe it’s a little of all of the above.)
Can you relate? Don’t we all have moments when we feel like a bad parent with our “typical” kids??
Is it possible to do all the most important things for all of our kids? Yes! If we. . .
Define “most important” for our family.
Most important reflects the values and convictions we hold most dear not because someone else does, but because in the deepest part of ourselves we believe God is calling us to live that way. What’s most important to me with my daughter? Her safety, responsibility and spiritual understanding.
With a Bipolar, tall-as-me middle schooler with a scream-first-ask-questions-later bent at home, the priority is keeping the other kids emotionally and physically safe, and for them to see the world as God invites us to see it in his Word. Which means that, many times, my youngest needs a hug or for us to pray together more than she needs me cranking the flash cards. Does that mean I won’t prepare her for school? No. But it might mean she doesn’t end up on the cutting edge of academics while she lives at home. Regardless, I can talk down errant guilt by remembering what matters most to our family.
Prioritize, realistically, those most important things.
My mom once said to me that she kept a running list for my siblings and me. On it, she listed our needs—for food, clothing, shelter, love, safety, learning, etc—and during the years she was a single mom, she’d check off the needs for each of us as they got met. Her goal was to meet 4 out of 5 needs when they arose. She could give herself permission, given the circumstances, to let that be success as a mom.
Did I like that I had to learn to clean my own laundry at 8 years old so I would have the clean clothes I needed some weeks (because she’d loved, fed, cleaned, taught and provided shelter for me and that last one didn’t make the cut)? No. Am I grateful that I learned to meet my own needs and be independent because I had opportunities to do so from a young age? YES! And so will our “typical” kids as they grow.
How do I know it will work?
I don’t. I’m still in the middle of it all. But one of my older girls said something that made me think it will work: “Mom, I think it’s really cool that I know how to make a couple meals, wash my own clothes, and walk my sister to school.”
How’d she learn? She learned when I helped her figure out how to fill a gap and meet her own need when I couldn’t—when I was tied up with her sisters and their challenges.
Does this mean I can sit back and assume my pre-K kiddo will learn the words on her own? No. But it does remind me (and maybe all of us) that we’re not the horrible parents we sometimes think we are.
Where have you felt like you’ve dropped the ball as a parent? Which of the strategies above might help?