More power to her

I lay in bed this morning listening to Charlotte get ready for school, still in awe of the fact that I do nothing for her in the morning now. And I mean nothing. I don’t even give her a ride to school.

At 6:30 I was still in bed when she came into our room fully dressed with backpack on. “Mom? … I need a Z-share. This is the last day of Z-week.” “Ok…” I yawned, “So what starts with Z?” “Xylophone … or, no … zone! … Hmm … do we have any zinnias?” Jerry said, “Somewhere there’s a packet of zinnia seeds, but I have no idea where.” She heard Fenner down the hall and walked out of our bedroom. “Fenner, do you have anything that starts with Z for my Z-share? I’ll only borrow it for one day!” We smiled at the sound of Charlotte approaching Fenner for help, and Fenner answering in a kind way. That’s definitely a new dynamic.

Jerry looked at me. “So what are you doing this morning? Just hangin’ out?” “Yeah, that’s basically it these days!” “Boy, you are so much more relaxed. It used to be tough being around you in the morning.” “I know, that’s because I made it all my job. That’s the message we get, you know. Mom’s especially. A good mother takes care of her kids and does things for them. Even my mom asked Charlotte the other day, ‘Charlotte, what’s it like now having no parenting?’ She said it that way because that’s what this looks like to a lot of people. Because over-parenting has become the norm.”

It’s tough to buck that trend in the face of so much judgment. Like Vicki said, you have to put your ‘personal prestige’ aside and do what works for your kids. Even out in public with all those eyeballs burning into you.

As I got out of bed I thought, I do wish Charlotte would brush her hair this morning … well, if she asks me for anything before she goes I’ll try saying, ‘Yes, as soon as …’ I went downstairs and just as I got to the bottom Charlotte walked by and said, “I’m going to brush my hair … Where’s my brush!” She found her brush and stood near me. “Mom, is it ok if I don’t brush this part?” She held up the piece of hair that had gotten Nutella in it last night. “Umm, you choose,” I said. She grimaced as she pulled the brush through her hair. A minute later she looked at me and said, “Done!” I looked back at her and said, “Ok.” We stared at each other in silence. We both knew this was the moment when I usually say, ‘Good job.’ The silence lingered. I walked away. She walked into the bathroom and looked in the mirror, and started brushing her hair again.

Hmm, I thought, without that signal of mom approval she had to decide for herself if she was done. She looked in the mirror and made her own judgment: No, not good enough, needs a bit more. Her hair. Her choice. Her power.

ps Speaking of power, the effects of treating Charlotte as though she’s capable are turning up in unexpected ways. She came with me on my most recent trip to the grocery store and took one of the kid-sized carts. “Mom, we need Goldfish. Where are they?” “Want to go find them? And get these other things you put on the list too,” I said. “Ok, and don’t worry, Mom, if you forget something, I’ll remind you.” “Oh, good,” I said, “thank you!” (Last week she reminded me to get something and I said, “Charlotte, if it weren’t for you I would’ve forgotten!”) She went around and loaded up her little cart and we passed by each other a few times and when we were almost done I said, “I just have to get this last item on the list.” “Ok, mom, you get that and I’ll go get us a place in line!” She did, and as I joined her at the checkout, I noticed a friend of mine behind me—someone I hadn’t talked to in a long time. To my surprise, I stood there and had a long adult conversation while Charlotte quietly unloaded all the food out of both carts, got the bags, put all the food in the bags and lifted each bag carefully into the carts. My ‘attention child’ did not pull or hang on my arm or interrupt our conversation one single time. That night at bedtime I said, “Charlotte, that grocery shopping today went so much faster because of you. And I was able to talk to my friend, and I know that checkout lady was so grateful for your help with the bags. Thank you.” She giggled and gave me an extra hug goodnight.

Explore posts in the same categories: Week 7: The Art of Encouragement

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