Not taking it personally and not getting in the way
A while back I had my first parent-teacher conference at the Buns’ preschool. At first I had a hard time taking it seriously (because…parent teacher conference? For tiny babies?), but before I knew it I was convinced that I was ruining my child.
Bun Bun scored quite a few “needs work”, in areas that surprised me. I think of her as good at articulating her thoughts and feelings. Teacher said she is quiet and it’s hard to get her to respond to questions. The subtext, at least based on the examples given, was she’s afraid she’s done something wrong and is facing some kind of discipline. So naturally I interpreted this as a critique of my parenting. Along the lines of what are you doing at home that this child is so terrified of answering a simple question about some cupcakes?
Later I was able to take a breath and remember that my childhood of isolation and shyness and anxiety is not her childhood. Yes, she may well end up introverted for reasons of temperament, genetics, and environment, but she is her own sweet self. It’s not all about me. I am not always the problem.
But sometimes I am the problem. Like with toilet training Bunlet. Probably for a year Bunlet had been toilet trained for pee but always took a dump in his diaper during nap/nights. I was determined not to pressure him, but UGGH, SO SICK OF IT. One day about three months ago his nanny decided to leave the door to his room open so he could go into the bathroom during his nap, whereas we’d always closed it for fear he’d escape and wreak havoc. (A reasonable fear, if you knew Bunlet.) Since then, no more shitty diapers. Not one. He was ready, we were just getting in the way.
So how do you know if you are the problem? The hallmark of getting in the way is that you don’t know you’re doing it…
Then this week I had an experience that I’d classify as neither being the problem nor getting in the way, i.e., doing things right. Bun Bun is reaching reading age. I have been doing my best to not get obsessed with it, secure in the knowledge that any kid who loves books as much as Bun Bun does is going to learn to read someday. That it’s not a threat to her eventual world domination if other kids her age surpass her, or if younger kids surpass her, that there’s nothing I need to be doing (because we already naturally do the things you’re supposed to do), etc. Watching other parents I know deal with kindergarten decision-making has tested my resolve to not freak out, but I’ve held strong and only freaked out a little. (I’m denying her best possible start due to my laziness/conflicted feelings!) However, school’s about to be out so I thought we might want to incorporate some reading practice into our lives so she doesn’t get rusty. (I have no idea what they do around reading in her classroom. Nothing, as far as I can tell.) So I got some of those books where the adult reads a page and the learner reads a page, thinking we’d labor through a few pages and it would be frustrating for her. Turns out the child can read. Not fluently or without assistance, of course, but to a degree that I was totally unaware of. Stealthy little fucker has learned to read, by gum.
So I did well with not taking it personally, this time. Now I just have to make sure I don’t somehow get in the way.