Saturday, March 25, 2017

I Was Told When I Got Older All My Fears Would Shrink: On Being Present and Growing With Our Children

My main focus here is my work with preschool aged children, but I'm a mom, as well, and one of my kids is creeping out of "early childhood" into "middle childhood." Most experts who are into classifying such things, classify eight as the last of the "early years," but he has always been an "old soul," and, having arrived at the sage old age of eight, he is suddenly so mature, so much his own person. He's grown his hair out and declared his love for all things Star Wars and Harry Potter. Big dude stuff. He's speeding through the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series and generally does his homework without being asked, though he sometimes opts out of the optional reading logs, even though he reads voraciously and would get a free cupcake just for filling in his minutes.

He is kind. He is adventurous and brave, but a gentle soul. He is curious about the world. Honestly, he's really cool. I am starting to see the person he will be when he grows up, and I am starting to navigate the waters of having a child who has outgrown a lot of "kid things," but who is not yet ready for everything that comes next.

We recently went to his first big concert, His first big stadium, probably gonna need earplugs, get the overpriced tour shirt, concert.

I'll be honest, I was as stoked as he was, and I was feeling like an awfully cool mom for arranging this experience. His favorite band, Twenty One Pilots, was making a stop on their Emotional Roadshow tour in nearby New Orleans. We arranged to spend the night with friends in the city, bought our tickets, made plans to get beignets in the morning.

The day came.

He was bursting with excitement. A thirty minute wait for the shirt with the tour dates on the back did not dampen his spirits. He made a well reasoned pitch for being allowed to get a Dr. Pepper.

After the shirt and the Dr. Pepper, we began the ascent to our third level seats. Our "nosebleeds," that I felt would be perfectly fine for a reasonably priced first concert experience.

It was dark. The opening band had been playing for some time. Lots of people were already seated and had to move their legs for us to get through. The stage was dizzingly far away and far below.

Man. I'd forgotten how scary upper level seats can be.

I felt a little nervous... and looked over and saw that my sweet boy, my not-quite-grown-up dude, who'd been waiting for this experience for months... was terrified. Tears rolled down his face.

"Mom, this is scary."

I held his hand. I told him to breathe. Inwardly, I cursed my poor planning and this experience for not being what it was supposed to be.

It's easy to place higher expectations on our kids than we should when we start seeing them as "grown up," It's easy to place higher expectations on our own planning than is actually warranted because we are "grown up." Age doesn't negate our flaws as humans or, well, random chance.

I had planned this. He was going to love this. I'd spent money. We'd bought the shirt that was now shaping up to be a souvenir of that time I really screwed up as a mom when he was eight.

My carefully planned moment was crumbling. And if I'm totally honest here, my first reaction was to look around and wonder what other people were thinking. Were they judging us, judging my parenting?

We all have these thoughts in these types of moments, I think. And our initial response can be to try to make it all just STOP. But that doesn't solve the problem. or lead us to where our kids need to be in moments of stress.

We got up. We calmed down. I swallowed my pride and recognized my plans had a flaw and I needed to fix this for my kid.

I talked with the customer relations people and, after being sent to several different customer service booths (and stopping for Dipping Dots to re-up on Cool Mom Points), we were offered an upgrade to pit tickets... which seemed wonderful... but we couldn't afford (and, in retrospect, pit tickets fit my adult agenda for "good concert experience" and aren't exactly appropriate for an eight year old concertgoer anyway). A very kind customer service agent then offered us complimentary first level seats that hadn't been claimed. Relief. Perfection.

We settled into our new seats, Dipping Dots in hand, right as my son's favorite band took the stage. He bounced with joy and sang along to every song, hanging in there past multiple encores and hours past bedtime.

I love live music; I love a good probably-gonna-need-earplugs rock show, and this was a great one. I can't tell you how excited I am that I can share this with my son. But this didn't happen because I decided it would. The whole parenting thing never quite gets easy. But it's easier when we recognize that it's never really about us, and we can't dictate how an experience is going to go no matter how much we plan. No matter how much we want something, we can't just make it so.

The good stuff happens when we're listening to them, and when we're able to set our adult agendas aside, especially in the moments when it's hard and it's stressful and everyone is feeling disappointed.

As my children get older, I hope they will continue to share with me the things they love, and I can continue to facilitate their growth towards the people they want to be.

But more than anything, I hope they continue wanting to bring me along for the ride.

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