We’ve been going some through growing pains with my oldest son recently. He’s 5 1/2 and discovering his individuality which is just a nice way of saying he’s testing his limits and our patience along with them. He’s bold, sassy and moody. There have been more battles of will in our house in the past few weeks than I care to admit. I’ll be honest, every once in a while I blow a gasket. It’s not always pretty, and usually ends in tears (his and mine).
In theory I consider myself to be a firm, but reasonable parent. In practice, my husband is far better at setting limits than I am. We don’t spoil our children, far from it. But much like he’s challenging us by reaching for new independence, so too am I testing my parenting limits and exploring my comfort with different kinds of discipline. I’m constantly wondering which behaviour needs to be a “teachable moment,” which is completely unacceptable and which are best left alone? It’s so hard to know. But it’s even harder to translate frustration into positive discipline. Sometimes I just lose my cool. I’ve told him I get as frustrated as him, and sometimes my emotions get the better of me. I’m not sure he understands that yet though.
So you can imagine my contentment when we declared a truce Saturday afternoon. While his younger brother napped, the two of us worked on decorating our Christmas tree. In previous years this has been a bit of a chore, with him eager to put every ornament on the same branch and in a rush to unwrap every ornament with little care for their fragility and me taking deep breaths trying to remember exactly what the joy is.
This year, he was thoroughly engaged. As he unwrapped each one, he joyfully commented that this was his favourite and then thoughtfully place each on the tree. We worked companionably, talking about each ornament, whom it was from and why it was beautiful. Every ornament on my tree has a story, whether purchased on a family adventure near or far, or given as a gift from someone special. I loved sharing all of it with him, hoping that it would inspire him to feel connected to our holiday traditions in the same way that I always have, and to know that the tree has been adorned with love and happiness.
It was just what we both needed, to restore the peace and faith that no matter what we’ll find our way. The two of us just trying to figure out this mother-son, individual-parent relationship as we go. There may be bumpy roads along the way, but we’ll always be able to find our way back to this, this place of love and happy companionship because ultimately that is what it’s all about. It doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.