Friday, April 15, 2011

Hard Lessons

It's hard to teach our kids some of the harder lessons of life that they really don't want to learn. I know it's good for them in the long run, but in the short term, my heart aches when they hurt and I have to encourage them to soldier on, for that is where the lesson is found. Not quitting when it's hard is a major theme of life, for kids and adults, but learning it hurts. There doesn't seem to be a way around that.

Yesterday morning we had a huge dump of snow. I don't use the word huge lightly here - it was snow central and still coming down. William's preschool was cancelled, and the last thing I felt like doing was rushing out of the house and skidding around the streets before the plows had been out. So I told Ava she could stay home for a few hours, in her pj's on the couch with a stack of books, and enjoy the winter scene outside without actually having to interact with it.

She was thrilled. I was too. I told myself, "Look how far you've come as a mom. Six months ago, you would've felt like a wimp staying home because of snow, and would've felt stressed seeing other moms take their kids to school (it's only in town for crying out loud), but this time around, I didn't need anyone's permission to make this decision." Recognizing these things felt good, as I'm slowly changing the tape that plays mercilessly over and over in my head about how I should be doing something, or what people are expecting of me. Letting go of all of that anxiety, and simply asking what I want to do, is beyond liberating.

We stayed home, warm and cozy and safe, and I made chocolate chip scones for our mid-morning snack, and then encouraged Ava to get dressed for school around 11 am. She began to cry, saying she felt safe at home, and wanted to stay near me, and begged to stay home all day. It would have been easy to say yes, but I knew the lesson lay in her facing her fear, doing what she didn't want to do, and knowing she was still safe.

In the mid-afternoon, I was speaking at the high school and staying after school for a short meeting, so Jason was going to be picking her up from school, and I knew that a lot of her anxiety was wrapped up in the change to her routine. I saw myself as a kid when I looked at her scared face, and I gently told her that she had to trust that daddy was capable of being there for her, and that if all of her security was tied up in her routine always being the same, she wouldn't learn how to manage change.

Life is change, whether we like it or not, and being flexible with our schedules is a part of childhood and adulthood. We have to learn how to manage the change that we can't foresee and accept it. I told Ava that she was still safe even though I wasn't picking her up like usual. It was not easy to walk her to her classroom and see her cry, and hear her friends ask why she was crying. I want her to face these hurdles and build her own self confidence.

I can't rescue her from every tough situation, but it is my job to help her through what frightens her, to the best of my ability. I don't want her to feel alone, but I can't take on her hurt and feel it for her. She has to walk her own road, and develop skills to adapt to the world she lives in. We all must do this, and I don't know if it ever gets any easier.

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