Cynical mom should have known better when she got into the parenting game. Should have known that trolling, slow-motion and uninterrupted through art galleries, book and shoe stores would never be quite the same. Cynical mom should have known the answer to “how should we fill the next hour?” would never be met with “a trip to the archives,” “tackling those nagging errands” or “tidying up a bit.” No, cynical mom was naive. And, she soon discovered that her kids were wily. They could see right through veiled enthusiasm. When a kid sees that their grand and exciting plans aren’t so grand nor exciting to others, if they don’t jump directly to nag and annoyance, they hover in that heartbreaking middle ground of insecurity and disappointment.
Unfortunately it’s the parent’s job to shoot down a lot of those promising missiles—snowballs smash when they hit a wall, do eggs smash when they hit the TV? A hairdresser cut my hair, can I cut my brother’s? What would happen if the guinea pig went in the tub? But, the parents’ other job is to force that glass to be half full. It can take some willpower when the list of “jobs” to be done lurks in the practical background, and for some cynical parents, letting go of the to-do list can be a challenge that rivals labour. But, as Maria Montessori reminded us, play is a child’s work, and kids have their own tick list of priorities to accomplish.
So, cynical mom chooses to actually go tubing with the kids and eschews the crash-and-burn defying comfort bubble she usually (wo)mans. And what happens? For mom, each run becomes a little less harrowing, and for the kids, joy.
Cynical mom commits to the outdoor pool in negative temperatures, and finds that, despite her reluctance on a myriad of fronts, the facility is impeccably clean, the staff and patrons are friendly, and the water is sufficiently warm. And, the kids are again filled with joy.
Lastly, of recent experience, cynical mom dons ice skates for the first time in a quarter century. Cynical mom, as it turns out, is, by now, a horrible skater. But, so are the kids, and they get to see mom (re)learning a skill, sitting at pretty much the same capability as them. This time they get joy plus the add-on of seeing mom, frankly, be talentless at something, but still wanting to improve. They don’t necessarily need to know that cynical mom’s motivation is to claw back up to her 12-year-old capabilities, they just need to see usually-competent mom struggling yet still trying; just like they do every day with tasks that range from brushing their teeth (well) to not spilling the cup, to figuring out that frustrating mass of upper and lower case letters that make up the words we read.
It seems that whilst the kiddos are busy learning all of their stuff, cynical mom has a curriculum to attend to too, and it’s that course universities never offered. It would be something like: Letting Go, Embracing, and Empathy 101
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