I reached into the cupboard and grabbed a cup for my daughter. That’s when it hit me.
My daughter is six years old going into the first grade. She’s becoming a sweet young lady. She can read, does math, she has her own ideas and asks lots of questions. We’ve had conversations about business, religion, and her life goals. Despite all that, I held in my hand… a sippy cup.
Instantly, I knew I had missed it. My daughter had grown and changed, but I was stuck treating her the way I always had, like she was still three or something. Part of it’s because her brother is three so it’s easy for me to just think of her the way I think of him. Of course, I’ve done the exact opposite with Pax, thinking he should be able to do things at the same level that his older sister can. I forget the gap between them.
I put the sippy cup back in the cupboard and exchanged it for a regular cup. I wondered what other ways I needed to adapt to my ever-changing children. That’s the funny thing about parenting, just when you think you’ve got this fatherhood thing down you realize you’ve been doing it all wrong!
At every new stage in their lives my inexperience becomes obvious. Each kid is so different. Having been the father of a three-year old girl is nothing like being the father to a three-year old boy. The milestones come fast and furious, leaving me only enough time to catch my breath before I find myself grabbing a wildly inappropriate cup for a six-year-old.
[From a year ago: “The fear I have is, she will change so fast, and I will adapt too slow”]
Giving instructions has had to change. Discipline has had to change. Even recognizing what they can do on their own has been hard, like at bath times or when I’ve had to help them get dressed. When they were younger there weren’t a lot of discussions about the why behind the rules, but now I’ve had to adjust those moments to include conversations about the values and positive characteristics we want to instill in them. I’m forced to reason out my requests before they’ll be accepted and acted on.
Just this month Erica and I scheduled separate date nights with each of the kids and I really got to see them both in a different light. I took Ella to an indoor black light mini-golf course, and Pax and I saw the movie Planes. Ella is just so fun to talk with and we pretended to do all kinds of things during our little breaks between each hole. Pax is becoming very active and wants to race and play-fight all the time. I realized how far he’s come since our Saturdays playing with trains on the floor.
It’s a lifelong pursuit, as I was recently reminded. Rather, it should be a lifelong pursuit, getting to know your children and what they think and who they are.
Handling these transitions well, that’s how I want to judge myself as a parent. I can choose to let my fear of inexperience hold me back, or I can embrace these as exciting opportunities for our relationship to grow.
How about you? What transitions threw you for a loop and how did you handle them?