A couple of weeks ago, Mikayla and I went on a bike ride to Starbucks while Brayden was at football camp. It was the first time we went any place beyond the neighborhood while she was riding her own bike and I was riding mine. I was very proud of her - she did a super job.
The Starbucks we rode to and route we took, had us traveling across several road entrances leading into a residential areas as well as a whole Home Depot shopping area. Although I had already taught Mikayla to carefully look both ways before riding her bike along the path across the roads, I still found myself charging ahead and yelling out "All Clear" to her.
On the way home, I realized what an impedment I was to Mikayla in doing this. I was preventing her from practicing what she'd learned in my attempt to completely protect her. In hindsight, I realized that I should have watched her look both ways at each opportunity, and then gave the "All Clear" signal, when I saw that she had done what she was supposed to.
It's a terribly hard thing to determine as a parent when it's time to step in and protect and when it's time to step back and let your children learn and experience on their own. I desperately want what is good and happy for my kids - that their lives will be filled with positive memories and they'll always know their mommy loves them. But, as they get older, I'm realizing that my childrens' happiness shouldn't be such a top priority- and that's hard for this mom.
Today was a very difficult day with Brayden. We spent the day at home - which wasn't my intention, but between the weather not being great, and housework really taking THAT long, that's where we stayed. I had braced the kids last night that they would both have to spend some time cleaning their rooms. Both rooms were in about the same shape - both requiring only about ten minutes of good effort. Mikayla actually snuck into her room to clean it without my prompting first thing this morning, just so she wouldn't have to worry about it later. Something I would have done. Brayden ignored his chore. When he started pestering his sister, I got mad, yelled at him and sent him to clean his room. About five minutes later, feeling remorseful about my attitude and sorry for yelling at him, I went to his room only to find it NOT cleaned and him not there. He had probably picked up a couple of things, and then went to watch tv. NICE..... So, I got on him again - little success. And again - same sort of effort. Finally, I found him out at the trampoline and gave him the big guilt trip about how he makes me feel when he chooses to disrespect me like that. He felt bad and even admitted that he "doesn't like it when I do that" - "you mean, make you feel sad because I tell you how sad I am?" - "Yeah, it makes me feel bad". Okay, well, at least I found a button to push that produced results. (For those of you reading thinking I'm a terrible mom with disobedient, disrespectful children - I'm sorry I've let you down!)
As I helped him get his pads on for football practice, I had this gut feeling that we were only just beginning the stress issues of having to prepare for things that were pressure scenarios for Brayden. This is only the second week of practice, but the first week with full tackle/pads. (I had to look it up online to determine where each pad goes - man, this is a science). Brayden had begged and begged to play Pop Warner Tackle football this year, vs. the flag football that he played last year. Brayden LOVES football and could not wait for this opportunity to play. However, since practice has begun, he's been less than enthusiastic. "They've had to run too much, too hard, the tackles have hurt, and the coach is tough."
As is typical for a child with his personality, he was exuberant over the idea, but lost interest when the follow-through became tough. When I returned to the practice after running to the store, I noticed him dead last in the pack of runners, and when he approached to get his drink, he was bawling.
Now, the protective mom in me wanted to call it quits for him. I wanted to give in to his desperate pleas to not return to practicing and have him walk away with me so we could go get him ice cream, give him a big "Adda Boy" and say "Nice Try". But, despite his constant cries of "I Can't" coupled with "I just couldn't breathe, I think I have asthma" (which we're quite certain he does not have), I couldn't give in. The ramifications of him choosing not to return to practice would be very big and could be potentially far-reaching for a number of reasons.
John joined us soon after - Brayden still crying, me praying over him, talking him out of his excuses, giving encouragement. John then spent nearly 45 minutes sitting with him and walking around the track with him, repeating many of the same things I said, giving him examples of times he stuck it out (Boot Camp) and times he wish he had and regretted it ever since (high school wrestling). We both talked at length about Brayden's need to demonstrate to his peers and teammates that he's not a quitter, that he has their back and will not let the team down, and that he's courageous enough to return to the field. He did not want to return to practice today, he wanted to sit on the sidelines and go back tomorrow. But, we know our son, and his track record - one little inch given to him, he'll run with. If he thought he could get out of it today, he would have tried again tomorrow and the next day - and certainly numerous times when the pressure of school chimed in too.
Finally, he got back in there. And, by the next water break, he was running up to us with smiles and bragging about the way he'd juked out of tackles repetitively. He had confidence again, and that made all the difference.
After practice, John touched base with the coach who assured us that nearly every child on the team will go through this at one point or another, but eventually, for each of them, they'll have a moment where it all clicks and realize it's all worth it. Looking at our son, who is nearly the shortest, is not "Speedy Gonzalez", is close to the lightest, and does not possess a fiery venom when it comes to taking out his enemy..... I hope and pray that Brayden will find that moment. For now, I'll take today's moment - when Brayden realized that sometimes life means sticking with it even when it's tough, and Mom realized sometimes life means stepping back, even when it causes your child pain. I can no longer pave the way for him, checking to make sure every path is "All Clear" for him - it's time I trust that he looks both ways on his own.