forever preschool

When will he finally get this? To be fair, he is truly doing an exceptional job learning. But even still, I find myself quick to be frustrated with my youngest son. He is all of four years old now and we are constantly working on the tasks of his life-stage.

Learning to not get his way and handle himself appropriately.

Learning to speak up for what he wants instead of whining or whimpering.

Learning to respect others, get along, and use his words.

And all the while figuring out who he is and how the world works.

Simple.

So why do I not have more patience for the poor boy? I am not in new territory. I have done this before. Twice. And yet there is something in these moments of teaching and coaching that reaches beyond this one child. Whatever it is seems to trigger a quiet desperation inside of me. One that is distinctly disproportionate to the four year old at hand.

Eventually, after one of the days of family togetherness that didn’t bring out the best in us, a light bulb goes on. I am not just disturbed by Zachary and his age appropriate behavior. I am also discouraged with his older brothers and the fact that they have not mastered the tasks of preschool yet, either. And I am disgruntled with my husband because he has not mastered the tasks. And while I am at it, I am completely stymied with the entire world for not mastering the tasks of preschool.

Which really, of course, all boils down to the fact that I am irritated with my own self. Because I have not mastered preschool either.

So my distinctly disproportionate desperation comes from the knowledge that no one ever truly masters these tasks. My son is doomed to live a life of humanity. And so are his brothers. And his father. And the rest of the world. And me.

I must have tricked myself into thinking these tasks should be easy because the age appropriate time to address them is when we are small. And my frustration only magnifies when I realize NO ONE has mastered these simple tasks, including me. The futility of the situation glares at me every day.

The problem is, the tasks I speak of may be simple but they are also enormous.

And so I have changed my mind. Instead of thinking the tasks are small because we teach them to small people I realize the tasks are just as gargantuan as they sound and that is why we start learning them at such an early age. Because truly, these tasks require a lifetime to even begin to grasp.

But I have to believe it is worth the effort to try.

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the face

What do I say to a face like this? These puppy dog eyes, red and splotchy from tears with hot cocoa stains around the mouth for finishing touches. The fact that he is about the most adorable child God ever created works in his favor almost all of the time.

My former self would have known just what to do when face to face with this forlorn little boy. I would have forced the older brother who wanted to play by himself to play with this child. We must sacrifice everything – including our very selves – in honor of being nice. I don’t care if you want a moment alone. Can’t you see this face?

But I am not my former self anymore, even though parts of her tug on my heartstrings from time to time. So while it kills me to look at this deliciously pathetic face, as a mom of three I also respect that everyone needs time alone now and then.

I had been listening and after quite some time playing nicely with someone less than half his age, the older brother had requested said time alone respectfully. And I haven’t heard a lot of respectfully around here lately. The three-year-old stormed off to his room where he proceeded to weep bitterly with angry sobs.

I followed him in and scooped my snuggliest child into my arms. He was offering his love and adoration for his older brother in the form of intense desire to be together, doing what his world revolves around, playing. And he was rejected. And it hurt.

And I have to admit, I was a little at a loss of what to do. It is fair to need some alone time. It is also fair to be hurt when someone doesn’t want to play with you, even when they are not being mean about it. How can I help my children understand boundaries, respect, and love? There was no simple answer here, so I sat holding my youngest son and felt the tension of the situation for a while.

Sometimes people’s boundaries are not what we would like them to be, but that does not give us the right to make their choices for them. Even when we are the mom. And it’s hard.

I was encouraged that after some snuggles for one and some time alone for the other, the boys figured out for themselves how to play together again. At least for about another five minutes. Then I got to see this face again.

What situations have you faced lately that don’t have clear cut solutions?