Today is the day. For some reason my boy turning seven this year has affected me more emotionally than usual. So, I started reflecting on why?? I mean, I not only felt sadness, but a little anxiety. It was almost like it hit me that my husband and I are truly in charge of raising this little human being and this human being is not so little anymore.
This is a different developmental phase we are entering. Things are changing, and well, things are about to get more and more complicated. This is a time of greater independence and I think what hit me was, Greg and I are going be seeing more and more the results of some of our parenting. Our pouring into Carter. And... what if it doesn't turn out well?? Eek!!! (I mean, come on, do you NOT ever wonder what if?????)
So, these are somethings I have had to remind myself of this week as I processed moving to a different developmental stage.
1) Even though I may not see the influence that Greg and I have on Carter every day, there are days when we see it and it confirms that we are doing something right.
Some days with Carter are hard and challenging. Some days are wonderful. Some days I want to give up. But, every once in a while, OK, quite often, I see how Greg and I are influencing him in a positive way. The problem is we tend to focus more on the problems rather than the successes. It is so much easier to freak out over a minor behavioral issues rather than the big picture. It is also easier to focus on the negative rather than the positive. Believe me, I can teach parents all day long to focus on positives to reinforce the positives, but when it comes to day to day life with MY child it's harder than it appears.
So this year I am reminding myself to see the positive
2) Teaching my kids to act right and have good manners and social skills takes time, energy and a lot of patience.
Let's face it. We all want perfect children, right? I mean we would never say that, but get in public with others and you want your child to act perfect, because it reflects how good a job at parenting we are doing. Wait. Did I just say that? Yes, I did. I often lose my patience more in public than in private because I have this high expectation on my kids to reflect me in a good light. That is wrong. It is prideful. And I have learned I will always leave that situation with egg on my face and heart full of regret.
If I am not consistent in teaching my kids how to act on a regular basis, why do I think they are magically going to have those skills when we are in public. Now more than ever, I have to take advantage of every situation to make it into a learning situation. Having a dialogue as to why we don't do that but do this. Carter is only going to become more independent. And if my child does not act how I want him to act remember he's a kid, and he's not supposed to be perfect and this is how he learns.
I could go on and on about this, but I will save that for a separate post.
So this year I am reminding myself to remember that every moment can be a teachable moment.
3) Carter is going to fail. He's going to mess up. He might not always make the best decisions, but this is critical to how he will learn to make better decisions.
Developmentally, 7-9 year old years means we are entering a time of more independence and your child wanting to make more decisions about his day to day life. There is a fine line that parents walk during this time. Some parents don't want there kids to be hurt, fail, or make mistakes. Therefore, they go rescue them whenever they see a potential "train wreck". This is commonly referred to as "helicopter" parenting. And we all have a little bit of that in us and that's okay. But when we as parents continually protect, control, and ultimately make decisions for our children based on keeping them safe, we are crippling them and their ability to be independent one day.
I admit this is hard. I have felt it. I have to remind myself to butt out!
Let me give you a couple of examples:
When Carter comes home complaining that his friends were mean to him ALL DAY, didn't play with him, didn't sit with him, etc. I don't pick up the phone or get online and try to fix or figure out what happened and was my child mistreated. I just try to understand his feelings and empathize with him on how bad that particular day must have been for him and help him see what he could do differently next time.
If your kid has a really bad, difficult teacher, teach your child to respect those in authority no matter what. They can't quit something because they are not getting along with someone. Same with a coach, Sunday school teacher, etc. Any adult your child has to interact with on a weekly basis. This is YOUR opportunity to teach your child how to get along with others and not quit. As hard as it is, allow your child to feel discomfort, to not always get his way, and to teach him how to live with difficulty. Too many times we just want to rescue.
A great couple of books to read on this is
Parenting Is Heart Work
Helicopters, Drill Sergeants, and Consultants
It's a lot easier to take over and "fix" the situation than to let your child suffer. We want to take over. When you feel this way, it is a great opportunity to stop and pray and ask for wisdom! This is when you have to see your kid unhappy, fail or even possibly get really hurt by others. This when parenting gets hard (er).
So this year I am reminding myself to be more of a "consultant" and less of a "helicopter"
I think this is where my anxiety was coming from. My little boy is growing up. I guess I just needed to remind myself, again, that I am already equipped, through Christ to do this. I'm not going to be perfect, I don't have to be perfect AND neither does Carter. We both need grace, prayer, consistency and lots and lots of hugs for when life gets hard. And the reality is, it's going to get harder.
But, I still have time. We can do this. We are equipped to do this. And as scary and anxiety provoking as it can be, it's really cool seeing this little human being becoming his own.
I love you Carter.