The life coaching program of parenting
We’re returning from an afternoon at the river, and Col is struggling to carry out our deflated, unwieldy innertube, unfurling itself from his arms like an escaping octopus. Col exhales the sigh of the defeated; you can practically see his chest deflate.
“Hey honey, any ideas on how you can make that task easier for yourself?” I ask with false cheer.
Col grumbles, professes to be fine, and I swallow down the urge to fold up the raft as precise as Holiday Inn staff and return it to the shelf of his arms.
Later, we’re mounting our bikes and see a small pile of broken glass on a concrete wall. Col grabs the glass, arm cocked and aiming, about to launch it in the tall grass.
“Hey honey, do you think it’s safest to leave that broken glass where it can be seen or to throw it in the grass?”
Col winds his arm down and returns the glass to the concrete wall.
Who knew parenthood was like being a life coach to very small people? One thousand times a day it would be easier to take my mulitple decades of experience and simply announce the Right #&%$*! Thing to do, or for the sake of efficiency, motherfreaking do it for them. (Watching Rose wash dishes—unleashing a Niagra of water for each solitary plate—is like an advanced meditation. Just breathe, keep breathing. Breathe).
I have a (marvelously-talented) life coach, who puts a great deal of effort into gracefully helping me access my own wisdom while she likely grits her teeth waiting for me to simply get it. It’s just like parenting, how we casually ask those gentle, loaded questions, as if we’re not all that invested in the outcome. My life coach will say, without much emotion, “Rachel, do you want to examine if you have any other choices here?” This morning, while Col pushed himself around in Rose’s doll stroller, straining the fabric, enraging Rose, Dan said nonchalantly, “Hey Col, do you want to choose something that won’t annoy your sister so much?”
Daily, there’s unending amounts of information to disseminate, information that seems well, obvious. Sometimes I want to shout, “HANDS OFF THAT UNRIPE APPLE!” But instead, I opt for, “hey, you know if you pick unripe apples then we miss out on all that delicious ripe fruit.” I once told Col, “the window just can’t take the impact of a tennis ball. Can you throw somewhere else?” Cue falsely patient smile. And then I fell down in the grass to simply breathe because the restraint takes so much effort.
But it’s worth it, right? We all know kids who will take a parent’s advice, turn around and do the exact opposite. Because really, who wants unsolicited advice? (You can ask Dan how well it works in our marriage). Also, kids are already at the low end of the personal-power totem pole, looking for ways to exercise some authority over their lives. But the funny thing is that kids truly, mostly, want to do the right thing; they want to be helpful and to add positively to the family culture. As long as its their idea.
If kids get to make their own decisions, though with maybe a teensy bit of leading questions tossed into the mental arena for contemplation, or some general information about the way things work (see: unripe fruit), they’re more likely to make a decision that everyone can live with.
Rose, bagging up frozen peach slices. The kids have been 100% more helpful since Dan’s been away hunting. It’s weird. Rose took out our kitchen garbage without being asked this morning.
So, I’m starting a new program: life coaches can train for free with my family! Just shadow us through the day as I spin thousands of decisions into their own. Wink wink.