Like anyone else, I have good days and bad days, and so does Em.
Yesterday kind of felt like both.
First thing in the morning I had to be at a cleaning, my eldest Dee had to be an appointment of her own, and so with some preparation, I left Em by herself. I knew I would be close, and that the cleaning wasn’t for very long, it was one of the rare moments (compared to how I and many of my generation grew up) when she was home alone.
When I returned from the cleaning, slightly hungry and a little grouchy (my writer friend Kerrie refers to that state as “hangry”), here was Em bouncing and excited. She had managed much of her homeschool work already, she told me and was telling me all about it.
And I, worried about a host of miscellany that does not involve homeschool but definitely falls in the money and time realm, immediately questioned her on several things. The conversation ended with me telling her she had to do better, her sad, lip quivering, retreating to her room.
It was mere seconds before I realized what a complete shit I was being. Her happy, proud little face when I had come home and she had run down the stairs to tell me how much she had done – and how I had shut her down, immediately expecting her to have finished everything and latching on to what she hadn’t remembered.
I realized that she had done all that she had done under her own impetus. I hadn’t told her before I left to eat breakfast, get dressed, brush her hair, or start on her homeschool. Despite this, she had done these things, and came down excited and proud of her accomplishments.
Only to be shot down by the person she need approval from the most.
The fact that I was “hangry” is beside the point. I had an opportunity to acknowledge her efforts and I failed miserably. Instead I pointed out what she hadn’t done, told her that saying she had forgotten something was unacceptable since she had a checklist to refer to, and generally been a grouchy old shit.
I went upstairs, saw that her door was closed, and knocked on it. She told me to come in and I apologized, deeply. I acknowledged that she had worked hard and that I had ignored all of her hard work, and the fact that she did it completely unprompted, and told her I was very sorry for how I had acted.
It is something I struggle with every day – this desire for perfection. I put it on everyone around me too. Although I do expect more from myself, I do hold up those I love most to the scrutiny of that perfection magnifier, expecting a great deal, and I can be rather cutting when I feel they have come up short.
Em accepted my apology, tears in her eyes, and hugged me. Just writing this reminds me of how good, how kind of a girl she is – both of my girls have such huge hearts and they try so hard.
Later, as talk shifted to Em’s daily cello practice, tears came to her eyes once more. She was stressed out by an upcoming performance she will be doing in front of her small class of five cellists. I hugged her and said, “Wow, you have got a lot on your mind right now, don’t you?” She snuggled closer and really started to cry and I realized that my happy-go-lucky little girl has some real fears and concerns – and I have been adding to them. Instead of adding, I needed to find a way to help her resolve or reduce them.
Next came our review of her studies in Khan Academy. Last year I had started her on the Early Math section – which is technically K-2 math. I wanted to make sure she was solid on that before we progressed to 3rd Grade math.
We had a few setbacks, including her forgetting her username/password combo and there not being any way to retrieve it. So she had to re-start the process and at this point, here is where she is on K-2 Early Math…
75% progress is reasonably good. I pointed out to her that she is in 3rd grade now, however, and we are nearly halfway through the school year. “We will need to do something different to get you up to speed on this.”
I’m not sure what I will do, probably double up on the math practice starting in December and see how that goes.
And lastly there were tears over her creative writing – something she had asked to do as part of her curriculum design for November homeschool. “I want to write a story, but I don’t know how,” She said, tears once again in her eyes.
I smiled at her, “I can totally related to that, my dear. Story writing can be quite difficult. Why don’t we start out a little simpler?”
“Why don’t I give you a writing assignment each week?” She watched as I typed one up and emailed it to her. “Okay, so you need to answer those questions by Friday and send them back in an email, okay?”
She smiled, tears forgotten, “Okay Mama!”
I love this child so much. It hurts though, feeling so insufficient some days, wishing I were more – kinder, more patient, more balanced. And less – less frazzled, less “hangry,” less of a perfectionist.
Parenting isn’t all sunshine and roses. The love is there, though, a deep well of it, a thousand feet deep.