The Narrator and I are not getting along very well lately in some quarters.
His stubborn streak is fighting against my impatient streak and we’re both losing. For homework the other day (Yeah, homework in kindergarten still doesn’t make sense to me.) he had to ‘see how many numbers you can write on a piece of paper. The kid knows his numbers very well, and has excellent handwriting. He decided he wanted to see if he could fit all the numbers up to 100 on the page, so he started with teeny-tiny little numbers. Then, he realized that might take longer than the six seconds he was wiling to dedicate to the project and froze up.
He melted in his chair, began to complain that his whole body hurt, cried, whined, mewled, and flat-out refused to write more than one number at a time, each one necessitated by either my wife or I saying something like “Okay, please write the next one.”
The entire process took nearly fifteen minutes and each second grated on me like you wouldn’t believe. When you KNOW your child knows something, and KNOW they have the ability to do it quickly and efficiently, yet refuse to do so on some unfathomable principal, it is infuriating.
This is a constant event around our house too. Cleaning up his toys, eating his dinner, doing his homework, If the things we give him to do are outside his scope of what he considers interesting or necessary, it is a fight. He resists. I push. He cries. We both get yelled at.
My theory is that things need to become a bit more unpleasant for him- the idea that NOT doing the things he’s supposed to do will result in consequences that are not to his liking. My wife tells me that doesn’t work on him. I maintain that it WILL if we give it enough time, but I was overruled and my less-than-friendly approach to things was rejected in favor of more….peaceful approach.
The point is, he’s not responding to any sort of prodding on ANY matters, but we cannot afford to let him do things at his own pace all the time, or- he’d finish his breakfast in time to catch the bus for his first day of junior high, and his dinner would be broken down and carried off by fruit flies before it was completely eaten.
He isn’t troublesome or defiant, he is just resistant to being told to do anything that either isn’t A) his idea, or B) anything he thinks is worth doing at the moment.
Now, when we’re not dealing with matters of discipline, he and I are getting along amazingly. He and I are experimenting with plants. I’ve never grown anything but mold, and he’s learning about seeds and things in school, so we took a crack at planting some a week or so ago. He and I were equally amazed with all eight of our starter pots sprouted plants. We have four tomato plants, two forget-me-not pots, and two pansy pots.
That has become our project, and sometime after Easter when I construct the outdoor planter, he’s going to be helping me every step of the way….except for the part with the saw. I’ll probably leave him out of that.
As I write this, I think I realize the issue.
I’ve become more of a buddy to him than a parent/authority figure. We’re constantly doing the ‘fun’ things. We fish, hike, hunt, do work outside, I took him to NYC to the museum, we plant things and do projects together. Is this why he resists when I try to get him to do something he doesn’t want to? Is he seeing me as a PEER more than a parent? Is it made worse now that I’m working nights and don’t see him as much as I used to- then try to fill the time we DO have together with the ‘fun stuff?’
The more I dwell on this, the worse the feeling in my gut. Did I miss the chance to establish myself as someone that needs to be respected, and have firmly entrenched myself as ‘one of the guys’ to a five year old, such that when I push him to do something, he sees it like being bullied by one of his friends?
I know nothing about child psychology, and matters of the adult mind are enough to give me a migraine….but I honestly and truly worry that I have not established myself to my son as an authority figure. Not that I want to be a hardass with him, not at all. I LIKE having my ‘little buddy’ but at the same time, I need him to know when I tell him to do things for his own good, or- in the unlikely event that I have an important lesson to teach him- I need him to take something away from it.
And honestly- I reached the conclusions in the last half of this post while writing the first half.
There is much to ponder, and I don’t like the feeling I’ve given myself today.
Damn it, parenting is hard. We should have just raised ducks.