Friday, July 29, 2016

A Letter to My Five-and-a-Half-Year-Old Son

Dear M.,

Tomorrow you turn five-and-a-half.  Five-and-a-half!  You are still just a baby, and yet…not.  A couple of weeks ago, your face looked older to me than it had just the day before.  Other people are noticing how much bigger you’re getting, too, like your great-aunt at lunch today.  And KINDERGARTEN!  I’m so excited to start officially homeschooling, and I know you’re almost as excited as I am about our new school room in the basement.

There are so many things I love about you.  Your joy.  Your expressions and vocabulary.  When you think something is genuinely funny – a huge grin covers your face, a giggle pushes its way out, and your shoulders shake with laughter – and you tell everyone in the room about whatever it was that you thought was so funny.  You love that stuffed Ninja Turtle, and it was so great that you filled your Spiderman bag with past birthday and Valentine's Day cards to take with us to the restaurant today.  Your little brother and sister adore you, and it's so fun to watch you help them learn and play.  You offer your snack if you know I’m hungry, and because I don’t like “bad guys” on shows/video games (I really said that for you because I don’t like YOU watching anything scary), you do your best to shield me from them. 

With all of these wonderful things, you are, of course, a normal five-year-old.  This week has been exhausting.  Not physically exhausting like parenting you through your baby and toddler years was.  No, this was more emotionally exhausting and overwhelming.  Temper tantrums, screaming, hitting, crying, direct really put us through the wringer.  You and I have both felt some big emotions this week, and I am tired (you probably are, too!).  I'm tired of your behavior, of course, but I'm also tired of feeling directionless on what to do.  It’s exhausting to question whether I’m handling your behavior correctly, and at times it feels like I have no idea what I’m doing.  

Having these behavior management issues at the forefront have really made my insecurities as a parent rise to the surface.  Here are some of them:
·        The way that I treat you and manage your behavior will affect you for the rest of your life.  I don’t want to mess you up.
·        You are always watching and learning, no matter what I’m doing, and it is crucial that I handle situations correctly.  Your future hangs in the balance.
·        I tend to be very rigid with rules (thank you, OCD), and there is a chance that I will err on the side of being rule-heavy without much regard for grace.
·         I am far from perfect and am afraid I’m going to handle your behavior wrongly.  What if this becomes an obsession?
·        Daddy and I grew up in two different homes where parenting was approached differently.  What if we don’t get on the same page?

Don’t worry.  Even though these insecurities are present, I’m not going to let them get in the way of being a good mommy to you.  I can look past them to do what I need to do to help you show kindness, obedience, and respect.  God actually gave that job to Daddy and me.  And we love you too much not to teach you these things.  That’s why I don’t give in when you throw a temper tantrum.  That’s why I’m trying to stop saying “okay” at the end of a directive.  I’m trying to be direct in what I request, and I also am trying to not ask more than once for you to do things. 

Our semi-strategy seems to be working so far.  You did such a wonderful job behaving at the restaurant today.  Nana even noticed what a great job you did! 

So, five-and-a-half.  The longest and shortest five-and-a-half years of my life.  I love you so very much.