Experienced parents often quote the phrase that "kids don't come with instructions." And for most of us parents we feel tired and stretched with the burden and responsibility that comes with parenting. From changing diapers to teaching our children how to replace toilet paper in the roll without ripping the fixture off the wall we parents have a lot of work to do.
I have to admit that in my own parenting experience with my beloved daughters that I sometimes (uh, often?) get overwhelmed with needing to instruct them on things to help them become responsible and learn how to do things for themselves. How many parents does it take to instruct a young child to change the toilet paper? Heck, at least 5 – one to do the talking, one to point to which bathroom, another to rub the frustration from your face, and at least two to hold you back from uttering an expletive! And something inside me says, “relax dude, she’s like 6, it’s just toilet paper.” But I like the 5-approach, makes me feel like I’m on a football team. Someday, this particular daughter will learn to read well and grow up to realize that I blogged about her in the bathroom, then I’ll probably get it. But for now, maybe I can post this and then it will get archived before she finds out.
So, my sweet daughter (and truly, she is) comes out of the bathroom with four rolls of toilet paper – you know, the extra capacity rolls for those of us with a lot of wiping to do at home. I mean, it’s like she is juggling for the circus or something. And I’m trying, really really trying to just tell her to CHANGE THE ROLL OF TOILET PAPER ON THE ROLLER THING IN THERE using one of my other imaginary team-mates to point to the bathroom. It’s not working. “Okay, I have these rolls – where do I put them now?”. Because you see, in our household we came up with these ideas that if they have chores and stuff to do around the house that it might help them contribute to our family and make them feel like they belong. I got freaking sick and tired of re-supplying all the toilet paper throughout the house for all of us and so I was so proud of myself with appending “storage duty” randomly to whoever I wanted to on the chore chart (which we had to move up on the frig because the girls kept wiping off their chores when it was at their eye-level, the little buggers).
So here is where I went into one of those parental instruction seizure warps: “NO! Put tha… they go in tha… Take those and… CHANGE THA ROLL!” By now I’m looking like a coach on the sidelines when the ref throws the yellow flag. My imaginary team-mates were no longer a help. And it was right there when she looked me in the eyes and through me understanding I had lost my patience in something so simple.
I like what Dr. Garry Landreth, Regents Professor in the Department of Counseling, Development and Higher Education at the University of North Texas, tells parents, “It may not be what you do but what you do after what you have done that is important.” Taking a deep breath relieved the tension I had felt that had been building up earlier when all my girls were running through the house playing chase and yelling in glee right before bedtime. Acknowledging to myself that any normal parent would feel tension from that helped me forgive myself. I then knew I could not let her go to bed with a negative tone and attitude from me so I leaned forward and touched her arms as I apologized for being impatient which seemed to help her smile and say, “I forgive you Dad, we all make mistakes.”
I think now that I made contact with the “storage duty” responsibility even though the play was not run exactly as I planned. However, I am banking on the experience that we made eye contact tonight. And that as I felt her look right through me I didn’t close the door but kept it open hoping she would know I care about how she feels and that she belongs to me and belongs in our family and that she matters.