Tuesday, May 29, 2012

becoming a parenting expert...one mistake at a time

There are certain "projects" in our home that get shuffled for months on end.  Admittedly, for me, they are pushed aside mostly due to my dread of getting started.  Let's face it.  Life with four little kids is busy and scattered.  The thought of diving into something that takes planning and time, in addition to growing the mess before it gets better, makes me procrastinate.....and so the cycle continues.

As of late, the projects hanging over my head have been sorting and organizing the girls' room, sorting and filing papers (including loads of the childrens' artwork and school papers...which require decisions about what to toss, what to keep, etc.), and sorting through the overfull shoe bins in our laundry room.  The last project I have been avoiding the longest, because as the main entry to our small home, I don't want to clutter it more than it always already is.

Today, I psyched myself up to dive right into the project I've been putting off for a couple of months...reorganizing the tiny room that is now shared by both of our girls.  Clothes of varying sizes were to be sorted and stored away, crib sheets and blankets, tiny doll clothes, play kitchen food and serve ware, books galore, baby toys, and oodles of teeny tiny toys collected and beloved by Anna Ruth.  And all of it, must be functionally organized in the tiny square footage remaining after a dresser, crib, toddler bed, toy stove, and a rocking chair...among other things...take their place.  A daunting task.

I brought out the pretty black and white basket collection I had purchased to sort and store the various categories of things. Anna Ruth "helped" the entire time, doubling my work, but as any mother knows...the extra effort put in now in getting her to take responsibility to sort and organize will be well worth it later when she knows how to pick up her room the right way.  (Yes, I am convincing myself of this as I write!) :-)

Finally, like with any project I begin, it is not finished, but the time has arrived to go pick up Caleb at school.  However, we have made some excellent progress!  I decide it may be a few days before I dive into another indoor project.

I hear Emet call up from downstairs where he has been entertaining Grace, "Mama....you can come down now!" He had been busily working away on a project he hadn't been ready for me to see, but apparently he too had come to a stopping point.

As I round the corner from the stairs into the laundry room, a beaming Emet steps aside to showcase Gracie sitting in her bumbo seat.....surrounded by each and every single shoe from the now empty shoe bin.....taking up every square inch of floor space from one side of the room to the other.  Gulp.  My hands immediately tore through my hair, and a loud exasperated sigh escaped my lips. "Oh, Emet!  Look what you've done!  Now I have a huge mess to fix! Why on earth would you make such a mess?!"

I know my reaction was not what he'd hoped for after his hour of focused hard work.  His crestfallen face was evidence of that.  And if Emet has one physical trait that stands out above all else, it's his enormous blue eyes that reflect the depth of his very soul.  Oh yeah...and his sweet and helpful spirit. Ouch.  He stood in the middle of the enormous shoe pile sniffing back his disappointed tears.  I attempted to diffuse the moment by offering to take his picture with his "project".  I bought a little of his spunk back with that.  (I find that pictures go a long way with kids.)

I remembered a valuable lesson today....the one about putting a space between an action and your reaction.  No matter your response, you're going to make an impression.  That space you insert there is more than just a pause in time.  It's a chance to build and grow a character....to encourage and inquire of what his mind might have been thinking, and to redirect.  Conversely, it is a chance to tear down and to ensure the individual learns never takes a risk to please you.  Emet clearly was not being naughty.  In fact, when I later asked him (kindly) what his goal was in taking out all of the shoes, he tucked down his little chin and shyly said..."Well, I was just trying to help the family out."  As it turned out, he thought it would be more helpful to be able to see all of our shoes at once than to have to dig through a bin for them.

Despite my "Mama Fail" moment, Emet and I are ok.  I haven't ruined his future as a helpful individual,  and I doubt he'll remember me as a terrible Mama.  However, it doesn't hurt to collect some lessons along the way and do better next time. How else can I become an expert? :-)

"An expert is a person who has made all the mistakes that can be made in a very narrow field." Niels Bohr

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