Just when children push you to your limit, I mean your final limit, they can surprise you. I found this to be the case the other day. My children were recently out of school for a teacher workday. I applied my newly resurfaced idea of working together to make a plan for the day. That went pretty well, until the squabbling started. I had a few things that I had to get done in a designated window of time, then we were going to move forward with our plan for the day. I had some ideas that I just had to get on paper. The muse called and I needed to answer. Then, moments of screams, running, doors slamming, shrieking, and crashing sounds eked their way into my work. I was determined to not leave my task and let them “work it out” in their own way. That worked for about 10 minutes, then I just couldn’t handle it any longer. That proved to be even more disastrous. He said, she said, he did, she did… “Please let me finish my work, then we can do xyz.” They kept on with their respective arguments. I mustered up some mommy courage and simply walked away.
A few minutes later I noticed something unusual for that particular morning. Silence. Pleasantly surprised, I continued working and thought how wonderful it was that they had worked it out without my help. I reflected on the parenting class I took several years back, Redirecting Children’s Behavior (http://www.incaf.com/ — The International Network for Children and Families). I recently re-read the book, by the same title, by Kathryn Kvols after a friend started experiencing some parenting challenges. I loaned her the book, but decided I should do a quick refresher before passing it along. Reading it again was a good reminder of simple, yet powerful approaches to parenting. One point I gleaned from the class and book was to allow children to work their issues out on their own if at all possible. I sat there at my desk all smug and proud of myself that I remembered this simple directive. Little did I know that more was happening than I thought!
After 15 minutes, curiosity got the best of me. I called upstairs, “What are you all doing up there?” “Oh, don’t worry, we are just fine. You will actually love what we are doing. Just don’t come upstairs until we call you. Okay? Promise?”
I was more than curious by this time. I wondered what on earth they could be doing, and that I would love? I thought about sneaking up and spying through the Jack and Jill bathroom door, but I thought better. That just wouldn’t be right. I ask them to be patient for things, now I had to do what I ask of them.
About 45 minutes later, both of my children came to the top of the stairs and announced that I was to come upstairs immediately. I went upstairs and was instructed to come into my son’s bedroom. My daughter, being the spokesperson for the two, told me that it may not look at first like they had been doing anything, but I should trust that they had been doing a lot of work. The two of them nodded in unison. My son took the floor next and proceeded to tell me that with the help of his sister (that part almost floored me), they had cleaned out and reorganized all of his dresser drawers. He didn’t like the system as it was, and it needed to change. Drawer by drawer a presentation was made, with comments sprinkled in by my daughter. Drawer number one, socks folded neatly into matching pairs (a sock hodgepodge had always been the past order), number two, boxers (okay, he will be embarrassed that I shared this), three, the largest drawer, all UNC t-shirts folded impeccably, and so on. He even had a drawer for all of his baseball pants and accessories (the cup finally has a permanent home :)). I was speechless. I couldn’t believe my eyes. “WOW!” I said. After a few more glowing comments, I had to ask where the idea for this project came from and how they decided to work together. My son said, “Mom, it just needed to be done. It wasn’t working the way it was, and I didn’t feel good about where any of my clothes were. Now I have them the way I like them, so I will keep them neat. It works better for me.” I then asked how he got his sister involved. “She just said she would be happy to help me and I said sure.” That was definitely another WOW!
Flabbergasted and proud would be good words to describe how I felt in that moment. Never would I have imagined that my son would think of cleaning out his drawers on his own, much less enlist the support of his kid sister (although he has acknowledged in the past what a great “folder” she is). The outcome was perfect. They got along, did a great, much-needed project on their own, and I got to finish my writing. If we did nothing else that day, it was a great one. I learned to never underestimate my children. They can and do surprise you when you least expect it! What a great mommy moment.