30 January 2017

Parenting Lessons: They're Ready When They're Ready

I have been experiencing a great reminder in the parenting department lately. Not all kids develop at the same time and in the same way. Duh, right? But I'm definitely getting a refresher course. Life experiences, personalities, energy levels, motivation, skills -- they all come into play in how a child grows and learns. This has been a learning experience for the two of us as parents because we are both very motivated and pushed ourselves to excel pretty much from birth.

Our kiddo, while also a #1 child, is also an only child, and is very different. She just is not as energetically motivated as we are, so things that would motivate or deter us as children do not work at all with her. Tell her she will lose out on dessert or other rewards doesn't motivate her. She doesn't push for what she wants and then sometimes is disappointed when things don't go as she has hoped, even though she hasn't let us know what she's interested in or wants. She had not picked up on things as fast we we did as kids. She went through some pretty traumatic things in her first five years, so we certainly can't compare our experiences.

Having said that, it's been great to see her evolution recently and to be reminded that kids learn and grow at their own pace. She may not have the same desire to jump into things with the passion and motivation her dad and I did when we were young, but when she decides to do something and is ready she goes from zero to sixty in a day. This is opposed to her dad and I trying things at a younger age and having a longer, slower learning curve.

We tried to start her in skiing four years ago for one day and it went okay. But when we finally got her back on skis two weeks ago she went from zero to riding the chairlift by herself and making down the mountain in just a few minutes, even if she fell a time or two - and was absolutely fearless. She'd jump right up.

In our concern about her commitment, we had talked to her several times before that day telling her that this was a big financial commitment and something that we both really loved to do. We really hoped to see a real commitment in her and that she would make the financial investment worth it by giving it her best. I wondered if she'd make it through the first morning lesson, especially because it was a nasty cold day. She did! Then was gunning to get back out to the afternoon lesson. She was the first one they announced was ready to ride the chair lift at the end of the afternoon lesson. She was gunning to get off the tow rope and onto the lift with dad and up on the big mountain.

She zipped up and down with Dad for four runs and then announced that Dad had told her she could ride the lift to halfway by herself and she wanted him to go back to the big boy runs. I was not thrilled about this, but I could see the enthusiasm in her eyes, and her dad was okay with it, so I bit my lip and said, "Go for it!" Then my stomach knotted up as I watched her hop on the lift and head up the mountain all alone. I wondered if we'd told her enough times not to lean over in the chair. Was she holding on?!!! I share this panic as a former ski lift operator for two seasons and yes I did see someone fall out of the chair once. I watched our kiddo and held my breath all the way in a bit of terror.

And soon she was off the lift and zipping down the mountain in her cute little beginning c-curves. She's been begging to go back again and I think this coming Saturday we'll get her back on the mountain again and this time I'll go along too.

The day before this she went to a friend's birthday at an ice rink. Last year she'd gone on a field trip to a roller rink and fallen and hit her head and just didn't get the whole skating thing. So she and we were a little hesitant about how ice skating was going to go. But once she got there with all her friends, they helped her, which I loved, and she learned to ice skate and had a great time. that was another victory for her and I was so happy to hear how it had gone afterwards.

I've been trying to get her interested in cooking and taking more responsibility in meal prep for years. She's done pretty well, but never taken an interest in baking or cooking which I was doing very early on. Recently I've been giving her specific cooking tasks that she can own for the family. For instance, she's our official rice maker. She can throw rice and water into the rice cooker and turn it on. Easy peasy. She knows how to make a few other simple things too.

Last Saturday afternoon I came back from the gym to learn that she's made a big meal for her dad, reheating some roasted vegetables and a big plate of eggs and was already cleaning the kitchen. I've been underestimating her! I was impressed. And now I see all those years of little lessons coming into play in a big way.

I think that is another lesson, sometimes we just underestimate what our kids can do. She's suddenly ready for more independence and is making leaps and bounds right now. She is clearly in a positive growth spurt with her skills and abilities. That's exciting and I'm looking forward to seeing the leaps she'll take in the coming months! Fun stuff. She'll be turning 11 in just a few weeks and suddenly I'm realizing 11 is a pivotal age. Ten still feels young, but 11 is just 12 short months away from turning 12-years-old, which opens up an entirely new world for her. So I'm feeling inclined to be very thoughtful about this year of 11-years-old and preparing her for middle school and many other new experiences coming very quickly her way.

I told someone recently that parenting is hard not only because we're raising kids but we're also raising ourselves as first time parents to each and every child. No experience is ever the same with different kids. It's a constant learning curve and the idea that we'll ever be perfect at it is silly. But it's a fun adventure to keep trying and to learn along with them. We love our Kiddo and even though it's hard to see her growing up so fast, I try to keep reminding myself that there are a lot of joyful adventures yet to come. I'm excited to see how she'll choose to tackle them and I'm hopeful that we as parents can help her in the best way possible.

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