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Melissa Sher

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What Maggie's Crayon Reminded Me About Parenting

Posted: 08/27/2012 12:42 pm

My 4-year-old ran out of his room. There was toothpaste all over his shirt. His sneakers were on the wrong feet. And he was wearing jeans. It was 90 degrees outside, and the kid was wearing dark blue jeans. My toddler ran after him. His hair and shirt were wet.

"What did you do?" I asked.

We were already running late. Now we would be even later. My 7-year-old would be late to his camp. And my 4-year-old would be late to his camp. A tight ball formed in my stomach. "What did you do?" I was mad.

He was oblivious to my anger. "I went potty, I got dressed and I brushed my teeth." He was smiling and jumping up and down.

He had dressed himself. He had brushed his teeth. And he had gone to the bathroom. He did all of it without my prompts. This is what I had been trying to get him to do for ... well, his whole life. This was a good thing.

Breathe, girl. Breathe. (No, I don't have a dog. I was talking to myself.) I thought about my friend's Joanie's recent status update on Facebook:

Maggie comes to me all excited and proud. She then proceeds to break a brand-new crayon in two. 'Maggie!' I say, 'Why in the world did you just break a brand-new crayon?!' And she looks at me all wide-eyed but the joy and pride that was there a second ago is gone. And then she burst into tears, saying between her sniffles, 'I just wanted to show you how strong I was!"

Maggie's crayon. Hadn't I learned anything from Maggie's crayon?

My son wasn't trying to make us late. He was trying to help. He was trying to be self-sufficient. He had even combed his little brother's hair. That's why it was sopping wet. He hadn't just combed it. He had styled it.

Breathe, I thought. And I did. The tight ball in my stomach started to go away.

His shoes could be changed. I could grab shorts in 30 seconds. And, at camp, his shirt would get a lot dirtier. This was not a big deal. This wasn't anything. This was a good day.

And, truth be told, we were not running late because of him. We were running late because I have three little kids. We were running late because I had just finished putting swimsuits into backpacks and filling up water bottles and making lunches.

You're about to tell me that I should have made their lunches the night before, aren't you? Please don't. I know that. Of course that's what I should have done. I didn't feel like taking the five minutes to make lunches the night before. (Yes, five minutes. Not 10. We're not talking fruit shish kebobs or bento boxes with clementine-and-carrot smiley faces.)

I didn't feel like doing anything the night before except sitting on my couch and watching a spectacularly boring episode of "Real Housewives of New York City." No, I'm not a Tiger Mom. I'm not a Helicopter Mom. I'm not Free Range. And I'm not trying to Have It All. Sometimes -- often -- I'm just trying not to lose it. That's the kind of mom I was on that morning. I was Trying-Not-To-Lose-It Mom.

We were running late because I have three little kids and sometimes sh$t happens, as I believe Shakespeare once said.

As if on cue, sh$t did happen. My toddler squatted, his face turned red and he grunted. Then we really were late.

 
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