Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Being Mom

Today I became totally exasperated over the insistent demands, manipulative pouty faces, and utter impatience of Leah.  I refused to be a short order cook for lunch, which was unacceptable.  I forced her to help me while I made dinner, with her options of setting the table or keeping the baby happy (aka playing with her).  When I told her I would cut up her orange after she changed out of her swimming suit, she complained that she was too hungry and couldn't wait that long.  Yes, this all happened after we had spent the entire morning at the water park.  So in a nut shell, I was totally fed up.

Behaviors such as this are not infrequent.  She's a good kid, she just doesn't get that the world doesn't revolve around her.  And that my sole purpose in life is not to cater to her every need at a moment's notice.  I think you could file this one under "attitude."

So I hatched a plan.  I told her that she can be the Mom for an entire day.  She can say no and yes as much as she wants, just like mom does.  She can stay up late just like mom.  She can pick whatever she wants for breakfast.  And lunch.  And dinner.  As long as she makes it and feeds everyone and cleans it up, just like mom does.  Because in Leah's world, Mom says yes and no arbitrarily, and does certain things just to be mean.  And stays up late watching TV just because she can.  Etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.

I need her to realize that I work hard all day to take care of everyone else.  I want Leah to understand that I sit back and put my feet up at the end of the day because, more often than not, it is the first time I've sat down all day.  I want her to understand that I say my yeses and nos because there are reasons.  I want her to understand that as a grown up I have knowledge and experience that counts for something.  "I know you don't like vegetables! Do you think I'm trying to torture you, or can you believe me when I tell you there is actually a purpose to this?"

I want Leah to be excited about her own future motherhood, and I hope that I will be the one to teach her many things about nurturing and taking care of a household (notwithstanding my frequent absences of sanity lately).  But I also hope that this exercise will help her understand what goes in to being a mom and make her want to stay a kid for awhile, only having to help out some of the time, instead of doing all the work always.

Most importantly I hope she learns that I am not a waitress or a genie or a superhero.  Her needs will be met, but not at her beck and call.  Her preferences and tastes and whims are not the order of my life.  She will eat what is served.  She will have clean clothes to wear because someone purchased them and washed them and put them away.  Rewards and outings will occur because the children have been helpful and cooperative, because I have planned my schedule and done my chores and spent my money on it, and it is important to me, not because my six-year old is the queen of the universe.  I just want her to appreciate me and all the work I do.  I don't want to doom her to failure, I want to help her succeed, but to also understand that it is a lot of work for parents, and that is why the children are expected to help and not complain.  So that when she goes back to being a kid again the next day, she has a better attitude and more gratitude.  Is that too much to ask? 

We decided that Friday would be the day that Leah is the Mom.  This gives her a day and a half to practice.  So tonight as we sat down to dinner (the children each shoveling down their second pancake while mom has yet to take her first bite), I decided that she could practice being the mom tonight.  I had her do the chair-bouncing thing back and forth to the fridge.  She decided that everyone could have chocolate milk with their dinner (yes, pancakes), including the baby.  She was the one to pour the syrup, spoon-feed the baby her applesauce, and then to mop up the resulting spills.  She did all the baby bathing, with the washcloth-ing and the shampoo-ing.  I helped her have everything she would need to dry, diaper, and dress the baby for bedtime, and I'm hoping my detailed diaper-changing demonstration will prepare her to do it by herself.  Then we spent an hour together doing dishes and cleaning up dinner.  (How long has it been since I played in the dish bubbles at the kitchen sink?)
It only took a few minutes of Leah being the Mom for the true nature of its poeticity to shine through.  All those things that moms say that make kids roll their eyes?  Well they must be true because Leah said it: "I'm already getting you something, I can only do one thing at a time!"  Ah, Samuel and I had a good laugh with that one and I saw Leah hide a sheepish smile.

So here's to Friday.  I have some important things I hope to teach her, and in the process I expect she will teach me a few things in return.


Liz said...

Jenny, I SOOOOO love this idea! Think I might try it with my kiddos with their similar attitudes.... Can't wait to hear how the experiment turns out!

Rebecca said...

wonderful idea! I can't wait to try this with Paul sometime...