We’re returning from an afternoon at the river. Col is struggling to carry out our deflated, unwieldy inner tube, 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 tube 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 multiple decades of experience and simply announce the Right Thing To Do, or for the sake of efficiency, do it for them. (Watching Rose wash dishes – unleashing a Niagara of water for each solitary plate – is like an advanced meditation. Just breathe, keep breathing).
It’s our job to casually ask those loaded questions, as if we’re not all that invested in the outcome. This morning, while Col pushed himself around in Rose’s doll stroller, straining the fabric, enraging his sister, Dan said nonchalantly, “Hey Col, do you want to think about any other choices for entertainment this morning?”
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 it somewhere else?” Cue falsely patient smile. And then I fell in the grass to simply breathe because of all the effort of restraint.
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.
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.
Reach Rachel Turiel at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit her blog, 6512 and growing, on raising children, chickens and other messy, rewarding endeavors at 6,512 feet.