After missing my train by the customary 30 seconds, I sit here in the cold (how on earth could it have been 32 yesterday and so cold today), pondering all of the ingredients that contributed to this morning’s lateness.
In addition to the usual eggs (third breakfast of scrambled), milk (which was poured over the carpet requiring a quick remedy), and flour (what V2’s weetbix looked liked after she was through crushing then into the floor), we had the added element of a bit of spice in the form of ego.
V1 decided he had the generosity of spirit to empty the crumbs of his cornflakes packet into the bin, but his generosity could only extend so far. The plastic wrapper was strewn with a sense of reckless abandonment onto the floor. I made the seemingly innocuous request that he put it in the bin too. Innocuous. Or so I thought.
There ensued a stand off of sorts. My better half and I stuck firm. We were clear as to what was needed of him in order to secure his seemingly best in the world (he would have you believing this based on the emotions in his reactions to losing them) bowl of cornflakes. He just had to put the bag in the bin (we all know it wasn’t about the bag but rather the act of defiance).
30 minutes passed (or the whole morning where we should have been enjoying ten minutes together for breakfast before getting ready for yet another absence from the kids for work). As we tried various methods of anger, soothing tones, stern but clear sentences of action and outcome, it quickly became apparent (to us as well as V1) that we might not win this. (I know it’s probably not right to say ‘win’. But when are in a standoff with a toddler, let’s face it, it’s what we are all aiming for – no-one likes to lose. The toddler more so than us it seems).
We didn’t give in today. While he didn’t put the bag in the bin we extracted a seemingly meaningful apology for not listening and his reward was given (though it was now pretty darn cold and soggy). This only came after V1 was reminded that Daddy had to go to work and it wouldn’t be nice for him to leave without a cuddle goodbye and an apology).
So we used our absence and need to go to work as a tool to extract the result we wanted.
These past few weeks I’ve been away from the kids for more than the usual days as I’ve been involved in some volunteer work. Extremely rewarding but on morning’s like this where I view every minute with the kids as worth more than 10 minutes because of the lack of time I have with them, the desire to give in and placate his ego couldn’t be ignored. I didn’t want to spend all of this morning’s 1 on 1 time listening to him cry (sob would be more accurate).
Having finally finished Sapiens (Harari) I was reminded of a paragraph that I haven’t been able to get out of my head.
Sometimes it does feel like our authority is in retreat. We don’t have the time to follow through on so many things. In an attempt to ensure the limited time we have with our kids is free from confrontation, perhaps we have had to become more relaxed in authority. I don’t know. Our lives are increasingly busy and jam packed with commitments and work. My instinct this morning was to cave but I knew the problems that would potentially lead to, might be much harder to resolve. It might happen that my kids blame me for something later in life (hell, there is hardly a day that goes by that I don’t blame myself for something that has happened in their lives, why should it chabge when they grow up?), but I hope that they will understand authority, boundaries, how to follow instructions, and the consequences for not.
However, in all honesty this is an idealised view. In reality, all too often I don’t have the energy or resilience that this consistency requires. But just as i forgive my kids for their sometimes irrational behaviour, I must remember to do the same for myself.
This morning was a small victory for us as a team. My lateness is acceptable in exchange for the belief that we are guiding the ego of our newly 3 year old V1 and assisting him to become accustomed to boundaries and limits.
All of the small instances are just that – small instances. They all combine to add up to a lifetime of learning and as long as we can try for consistency most of the time, the occasional slips will hopefully be forgiven. In the face of long days of full time work flexibilty is essential. (And sometimes we have to recognise a losing battle when we are in it !)