This morning I poured my daughter a cup of Cherrios. (Cereal is no good in a bowl with milk, but must be eaten while watching Tangled under her favorite red blanket and IN A CUP. Only then, is it worth eating.) However, in the mood that strikes every quarter of an hour and yet always takes me by surprise, she threw that cup on the ground. Cherrios skittered across the floor and under the stove and beneath my foot where they like to crunch and stick. Then she waited...
"What are you going to do about it, Mommy?" Well, she didn't really say that, but her eyes did. Oh how those three year-old eyes can speak.
I told her she had to pick them up, every last one. There was some pouting and screaming, but she did start to pick them up. She even ate some off the floor which may not have been the most germ-free cleaning method. And well, she didn't pick up every last one. I swept the rest after she tried the broom and made an even bigger mess.
When my kids test their limits, I imagine them in this metaphorical kid-size bubble (made out of this mythical stretchy substance that doesn't burst), and they're inside spreading their arms and stretching their legs to see how far the bubble will go. Like when my daughter stares me down while releasing her high-decibel screams, coming out in bursts like our carbon monoxide alarm. Or when she sneaks out of bed and puts her bedroom through the nap time apocalypse. Or much like it, when my son keeps getting out of bed at night (why don't kids like their beds as much as we do?) to "check on us," which is sweet until he's still up at eleven o'clock at night no matter how often we threaten to take away Skylanders. As parents we have to tell them where to stop. Sometimes I do, like yesterday when I packed up his video game and put it in the closet. However, other times I just ignore her when she screams because nothing else seems to work or give up and accept that she's just growing out of naps.
But I've been thinking about that metaphorical bubble and how I focus so much on what my children CAN'T do instead of what they CAN do. While they're stretching and spreading and reaching, they're also growing.
I want my children to know how a positive outlook can not only impact themselves but the entire family, that happiness is shared not hoarded. When my son didn't want to return to school after his long and full Christmas break, I chose the reality-check method. "You need to go. Everyone goes. You will be in school for the next twenty years so get used to it." While it may have its virtues, what about, "Let's think about what we CAN do to make today better. Every time you get a drink, think about building a snowman with Grandma and Grandpa in Kansas. Today ask two friends what they did for Christmas. When you write in your class journal this morning, smile when you write 2013."
I want them to know what they CAN create because I believe our creative potential is essential to happiness. My son loves Legos. He will construct the ghost train and Hogwarts almost completely by his six year-old self. I think this is great, but what I love more is when he digs into the box of mis-matched Legos and makes his own creation. He tells me exactly what it is, and I can see where his imagination has filled in the blanks. Then we put it on his Lego shelf next to the firetruck and Hobbit hole and Ninjago helicopter. I bought some sticker mosaics recently, and began working on one with my daughter, realizing early on the project was much too old for her. But she decorated that little princess board in a haphazard and sparkly way, proudly carrying it in her hands for a couple hours. It is now hanging in front of me.
I want my kids to know they CAN pray everyday. Such a simple thing, and their lives will be better for it. The world will be better for it.
We get so caught up in this parenting business. We dress them and feed them, change them and bathe them (and before we know it the day is gone). It's easy for me to focus on controlling the little emergencies with a "can't" instead of a "can" because I'm mixing up my turkey meatballs, the baby needs to eat, and there's still poop on the carpet. But I'd really, really like to change this. I'd like to empower my children with that divine spark I know they each have. I want to inspire them to fulfill the incredible potential before them, and I know I can because surely there is no limit to what I CAN do.