When I was 23 years old, I decided to become a teacher. I had graduated college with a degree in Biology and not much of a plan or direction. So I took a job in an Invertebrate Zoology lab conducting research and supervising volunteers.
Looks great on paper but in reality, I spent my days counting plankton and sorting moths. It was tedious and sometimes a little boring but I learned more than I ever thought I could about plankton and moths. More importantly, it made me realize the importance of bringing science to life.
I might have a slight obsession with moths and butterflies now.
During the year I spent working in the lab, I had an epiphany about what I was going to do with my science degree. I was going to become a teacher and inspire young people everywhere!
I went back to school, got my teaching certificate and became a middle school science teacher in no time. And it quickly became the worst year of my life.
When I chose that career path, I was so idealistic and was certain I was going to change the face of teaching. Being young, single, and childless at the time I had all the right intentions and all the wrong moves. I wanted to be a friend to my students. I wanted to defy the stereotype of teachers who simply weren’t in touch with kids.
What a mistake that was.
I realized a little too late that kids don’t need those kinds of friends. They need adult role models. They need structure and they need positive reinforcement. Because I didn’t set that precedent in the very beginning of the school year, I had an extremely tough year and vowed never to teach again. In fact, after the year I had, I wasn’t sure I ever wanted to have children.
It took a while for me to overcome those fears. I didn’t have my son until 13 years later. By that time, I had become a bit older and wiser and felt ready to teach my son the ways of the world.
After a few years, my husband and I realized that our firstborn son would be our only child. And that’s when reality set in. It was just like when I started the school year. I had to make sure that everything I did, I did right the first time around. I had to set the precedent upfront. I didn’t get to learn from my mistakes for the second or third child. I had a one shot deal.
But guess what? You don’t always get it right the first time around.
I’m still learning this parenting gig on a day by day basis and I’m often reminded of my shortcomings.
A few weeks ago, we were rushing to get to an appointment. I told my son to have his water cup ready to go so we could leave as soon as I came downstairs. And no big surprise, my 5 year old forgot. He wasn’t ready. I was stressed about being late and frustrated that he hadn’t listened and prepared himself. And I yelled at him to hurry up.
When we got in the car, we talked about why I was angry. He told me he didn’t like it when I yelled. I flippantly asked what else I was supposed to do when I was angry and he didn’t listen. He responded simply, “Well, Mommy, you could have just told me no.”
And just like that, I was both schooled and humbled by my 5 year old.
I’ll admit that I’m part of the problem. I’ve never been one for structure or routine, even though I know kids thrive on it. I struggle to have consistency in bedtime, mealtime, bathtime. And when I do, I see the difference. When I don’t, I’m glad to know that I at least have a child who has also learned to go with the flow.
Look! I’ve actually had structure before!
But school starts on Monday. It’s time for kindergarten and everything needs to change. I’ve been looking at chore charts for kids to help him understand exactly how to get ready in the morning. We’ve used some before and you know what? They work. I just fail to use them consistently. I’m working on it and actually using some charts for myself. Trying to set a positive example and make life a little smoother for all of us.
Clearly, my role as a parent is a work in progress. I look for help with positive parenting and know that even though I have a one shot deal, I can always strive for continuous improvement. And at 5 years old, I think he’s a pretty amazing little boy so I would imagine we’re both doing something right.