Shocked. Confused. Completely taken aback. That’s what happened the other day when I was watching my two young girls on the playground and elementary-aged kids came out to play. Horrible language, bullying, and throwing around malicious comments about looks, behavior, and sexual orientation.
Those words. Those attitudes. That scrutiny. I was so suddenly jolted from my innocent little world of swings and sand castles and hoisted into a “big kid” universe that I was disbelieving of what was happening around me.
I had so many questions. How do these kids even know these words? Should I do something to intervene? And then the realization hit. My children, now ages 5, 3 and nearly 2, will be thrown into similar situations in the not-so-distant future. And what would they do in this situation? Have I taught them to respect others? To be the right kind of friend?
And close behind became a second epiphany. These are the days. The days to appreciate. The days not to take for granted. I think I have problems when my 20 month old won’t go down for a nap on the first try. Or when my kindergartener drops an entire box of Cheerios on the floor. When my three-year old refuses to wear anything but her Olaf sweatshirt. When my toddler eats Play Doh. Problems. These are our “problems.”
Sometimes I find myself complaining, maligning the fact that my children can’t quite do things for themselves yet. After my encounter on the playground, I’ll keep my problems and multiply them by one hundred before wishing for my kids to grow up.
Yes, I’ll happily read “Old McDonald Had A Farm” 100 times in a row, help you put on your socks and velcro your shoes, and carry you when you are just too tired to walk anymore, because these “problems” are not really problems at all. They are tiny – nearly microscopic – bumps in the road to becoming independent.
And as not-so-subtly thrown in my face that day on the playground, I realized that as children grow up, their problems become more delicate, emotional, and serious. The problems that they face are more complicated and likely to impact others.
Can someone please find a way to make time stand still? Because I don’t want to get to the more serious stuff. I want them to stay young, innocent, and oblivious to mean behavior, bad language, and unforgiving situations. And I want my problems to revolve around Cheerios and Play Doh rather than the much, much harder stuff.
But try as I may, I can’t freeze time. They will grow up and make choices on their own. And when they reach that point, my hope is that the example I have set for them is to be kind; love others; empathize; have unwavering confidence in who they are; and surround themselves with the right people. If they adopt that attitude, maybe we will be able to navigate the real problems with greater ease.
Just a few weeks ago, I volunteered to read to my son’s class. He proudly sat in my lap as I read, and when we left school that day, he asked, “Mommy, can you go on the next field trip with us? You know mommies are allowed to go on field trips.” It didn’t take me long to find a babysitter for my younger two so that I could chaperone his next trip.
I’m not going to let these days pass me by – these days when they are impressionable, eager to listen and learn, and want me around. I’m going to use them as wisely as I can. Instead of thinking I have problems when my toddler throws her winter hat off for the tenth time in one day or my three year old melts down when her brother doesn’t bring her something from the school bake sale. I will think about how trivial our “problems” are in comparison to the more grown-up situations they will soon face.
And I will use the extra time I have not obsessing over the small things but to teach them how to embrace the qualities that will serve them well on that critical day when they have to start making important choices on their own.
This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our mom to three and writer in Poland, Loren Braunohler.
The images used in this post are attributed to the author.