Ah summer... The time of year when we slow waaaaay down and enjoy lazy days. We should just give in and enjoy being slow and sluggish. It’s hot. It’s muggy. Don’t fight it. Just have a drink and relax!
I hate it.
It is not in my nature to not do things. Summer is counterintuitive to me. It saps my energy, frustrates me. I know I should just give in and just go with it, but… it’s a battle I mostly lose.
For example; this year I gave into my kids’ request to not sign them up for camps. We planned; they would help around the house, they would be responsible for entertaining themselves and they would not rely on TV and video games to fill the time. At the beginning of the summer things were going great. They planned to build a gaga ball pit. They drew up plans for a fort. They weeded the flower beds and helped around the house. I was encouraged. This summer was going to be great!
Then, of course, everything started to unravel. The yard was neglected, projects abandoned, chores forgotten, video games played excessively. I tried to get everyone back on track. It culminated in an angry fight between myself and the tween. It was a classic, heated, mid-summer yelling match. I hit the roof and then blew right through it!
Parenting is like adulting on steroids sometimes. You are basically adulting twice. Not only are you trying to figure out how to get your own house in order, but you are training someone else how to do it too. And, you hope that you have done your job so well that they will be better at adulting than you are. But, most of the time, the pre-adults don’t really want to learn the super important, scintillating lessons you are trying to teach them. For someone like me, who thrives on order and process, the messiness of a child’s learning curve and the obstinance - oh lord the obstinance! - can be truly crazy making.
After the tween and I simmered down, we had a reconciliation conversation. Lots of tears were shed. There were a lot of hurt feelings.
I realized – oh wait, he has no idea that I am trying to prepare him to leave me. He just thinks I am being mean.
I had to back up. I explained that I am trying to help him become independent. I told him that, although I don’t want him to ever leave, I know he needs to. When the time comes I want him to feel confident, comfortable and excited about it.
After that, his whole demeanor changed, softened.
What seems perfectly obvious to me, i.e. I am teaching you how to do for yourself, was not perfectly obvious to him. No matter how organized and structured I think I am, I still missed this critical step: let him in.
A relationship is a two-way street. We are always coming and going. If I don’t let my son know I am making a left-hand turn through his lane, we are going to crash. Letting him in on why I am doing the crazy making things helps him understand me. He may not like it, he may not agree with it, but at least he knows a left-hand turn signal means he needs to slow down and pay attention. Likewise, I have to learn to slow down before I turn. I have to wait and see what oncoming traffic is doing before going into his lane. We both have to actively participate in the flow.
This communication side of adulting is always a work in progress. We say terrible things, assume things when we shouldn’t, we forget.
But the most important thing is to keep trying. Because what we learn, we can teach.
Seems perfectly obvious I know, but sometimes the simplest lessons, like slowing down and enjoying the summer, are the hardest to learn.