I issued a challenge to my children the week before last to make a list of all the things they wanted to do this summer. I wanted to make sure we did something that met everyone’s expectations of a great summer vacation. They both essentially wrote things that translated into, “I just wanna have fun!” I was looking for more detail, but I guess it is simple from their perspective. I need to refocus my older eyes and see if I can adjust them to peer through a younger perspective. I think it is probably a lot simpler than I was making it out to be. Isn’t that most always the case?
I noticed today that my son was re-reading a book that he has read now, oh, maybe twenty times. This is not an exaggeration. I thought it was great the first five times, but now I found that I was feeling a little frustrated with him. I reminded him that he has, in his newly redesigned “library” system, quite a few books that he hasn’t read yet. He acknowledged that fact, and said he was going to get to them. And, I know it is true, he will read them eventually. I realized that what really mattered is that he was reading, and for some reason this book, and others like them, were like old friends, calling to him so they could retell their story. There is a comfort that comes with reading an old favorite again and again. That was a moment for me to step back and realize that it was a good choice for him, and that it was his choice, not mine.
I talked to my children not too long ago about using our time this summer for them to learn how to cook more things. They both have always enjoyed helping in the kitchen and loved sharing their creations at meals. This past school year they did help cook, but not as much as in the past.
Tonight I announced that I would like for them to prepare tonight’s dinner menu and make it. I shared with them the ingredients that were options in the freezer and refrigerator, and encouraged them to come up with the combination that they thought sounded good and they wanted to cook. They seemed pretty okay with the idea, that is, until it was time to start cooking. 5:30 pm rolled around and I told them that I thought it would be a good time to get everything going, since we usually ate around 6:30 pm. My son said, “In a minute.” My daughter said, “I’m not going to start until he does.” So, I waited patiently. Fifteen minutes passed, same drill. Forty-five minutes passed, and now my son’s response, “I don’t want to cook. I never wanted to. I’m not going to.” His sister said, “I’m not going to if he doesn’t.” I ignored this and went downstairs, getting out a few of the ingredients they decided on (they came up with the menu earlier). Then I called to them and said, “I have the chicken out, it’s time for you to decide how you want to cook it. ”
My son reluctantly came downstairs. My daughter followed. I pretended I never heard an objection, and went along as though they had never said anything to the contrary. I then shared with my son how I usually prepared the beans he chose, and gave him a few options. Then he was off and running. My daughter followed. There we were, all three of us preparing dinner (I had the job of preparing shortcakes for dessert). I didn’t dare make a comment about how just a few minutes earlier they were complaining and claiming that they weren’t going to cook. The funniest moment for me as a parent was, when my husband walked in the door, right as dinner was almost complete, and my son exclaimed, “Dad, I cooked dinner tonight, and I made chicken with a sauce and baked beans!” He was clearly very excited and proud. This experience reminded me of a lesson I learned in sales training years ago, a No is just a Yes in disguise. It is a good salesperson’s job to unearth and address all objections, then uncover that Yes. I guess being a parent is more like being a salesperson than I realized. I think the key to remember with children is that a soft sell approach works better than a hard sell. If anyone has found this principle to be true, please share your story!