Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Learning from my boys

It seems like almost every day, my boys teach me how to be their mom. As they grow from littler boys into bigger boys, their boy-ness has become more apparent to me. I am with them every day, all day, and I am still having to breathe through their noise and roughness. They are not always noisy and rough, but it is a way that they communicate and move through space that is different from me. Not just as an adult, though that is part of it. It is their boy-ness. I grew up with two older brothers who wrestled with me and each other. I raced them and fought with them. I am not completely out of my element with boys. But I often need to check my expectations and leave them behind. I know there are also girls who are rambunctious and loud, but even these girls seem more balanced to me than my boys do. I recognize those girls as reflections of my own childhood in a way that I don't with my sons. So I have been trying to expand and grow rather than trying to change my boys. That was like trying to teach cats to swim.

Going to the grocery store is a frequent adventure. They want to help, but they also want to run down the aisles and coast on the cart, and see how fast they can go. They want to see how many different ways they can hang on to the cart while it goes. My littlest one likes to climb onto the bottom rack and "spy" the other shoppers. Twice...TWICE...we have tipped the cart full of groceries over in the store. Now, you may think this is crazy and wild. It is, I suppose, but its not done in a destructive or completely careless way. They are very kind to other shoppers, and careful of older people. They talk to babies who are riding, and they delight in making them laugh. They like to see if they can find the jam I want; low sugar, organic, 16oz., seedless (10 points), or if they can get the right oatmeal; old-fashioned, rolled, organic, stove-top, round canister (15 points).

I am tired after shopping, and I often prefer to go alone so I can go faster because I see grocery shopping as a chore. They see it as just another opportunity to play and learn. So it is better if I choose to make that shift when I am with them, and when I do, they show me the rich possibilities in an otherwise laborious task. Helping them take turns pushing the cart. Discussing the importance of weight distribution on the cart!! (Why did it fall over?) Noticing the patterns on the floor that are good for a game of walking challenges. Talking with them about why certain foods are on my list and others are not. Honoring their food choices and their desire to try new things (What's meusli?) They read labels and check prices of different sizes. They like to see if there are free samples, and they remind me to get things I would have forgotten, like the dried mango and the kind of bacon that Dad likes. They unload the cart, and my oldest likes to run my credit card through the machine and sign my name on the electronic screen.

Just the process of writing this is a reminder that I need to chill out more at the grocery store. And that's just one example. Museums, movies, visits with relatives, medical appointments...I can get anxious about how they are going to act, and ahead of time I often discuss etiquette for different settings. I worry too much, and sometimes forget to become a part of the process with them.. I get too caught up in preventing arguments and hoping they don't seem too wild and loud to everyone else.

It is probably a Buddhist saying, but I'm not sure. I don't remember where I first read it, but I come back to it frequently when I am feeling perplexed about my parenting skills:

Don't try to steer the river.

So, even though I feel that we are going through some whitewater rapids in our journey together, I need to remember to steer the boat (or occasionally the shopping cart as the case may be), but not the river of their boy-ness.


Maria said...

This is a great reminder for all parents. I get so impatient. And there is no need. I need to find opportunities to discover together. To interact. Or rather...I need to let my dd "lead". I like some of the ideas you boys have of helping you out. "Points" for finding things. Helping at checkout (my daughter likes to bag the groceries....) every day CAN be an adventure, can't it?

Thanks for you post!

Anonymous said...

I love that saying...it's going on my wall. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, I could identify with this post. My boys have such zest for life and they see everything as a thrilling adventure to be devoured and extended. Like yours they love the shopping trolleys (I do lecture them about ramming other shoppers!!!)and if we go for a walk along a boring street they find places to hide and jump out, lamp-posts and trees to climb, sticks and stones to pick up and people to make astute (and sometimes rather unkind) comments about. "Why is she wearing her ipod instead of talking to her son?" Why indeed? Fortunately ipod wearers can't hear astute comments!

Lovely post.

And yes, chill out. Life is so much more fun if you can do it. I mostly succeed these days when it comes to my children but I still have uptight and lecturing moments when they barge into people and seem to show a lack of respect. But I think that is fair enough! Boys do need a bit of civilising from time to time.

Enjoy your boys.

singingfamily said...

I love your boys, so fun and happy to be together:)

Beverly said...

Boys are especially high energy when there is more than one. They make everything into a competition.

Laura said...

I loved reading this. I love where you talk about making the shift from seeing shopping as chore to seeing it as an opportunity to learn and see things together. :)

When my two boys were really little, my MIL would watch them every week so that I could go the grocery store alone. When they got a little older, sometimes I would take one, while the other stayed with Grandma, and that was kind of special, to have one-on-one time. One trip, my youngest insisted on listing and adding every item we put in the cart on his pad of paper to see how close it came to our total -- did the store make any mistakes?? He checked the register tape with the total he got and his list. It took FOREVER! But, it was fun. :)
Now, they are 14 and 15. I kind of miss the riding-on-the-cart days.

piscesgrrl said...

That is a lovely sentiment - I'm glad you shared it.

But I've gotta say... tipped the cart?!? TWICE?!? Oh.My.Gosh. That is just too much!

We've found the new do-it-yourself check-out to be great for the kids. But... sloooooowwwwww. And the poor check-out overseer person has to come over and reset our scanner thing, like, a gazillion times. LOL

m~ said...

I love that, don't try to steer the river. I'm going to have to remember that.
My, just turned 8 year old, son loves to check out all the labels to see how much sodium and carbohydrates everything has and then proudly says, "I eat two servings of everything because I have a high metabolism." Boys, aren't they just the greatest!?!