Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Butting Heads

Are you also blessed with a stubborn child? A hard-headed, bull-headed, stalwart child? A perfectionistic child who won't do anything unless he can do it perfectly the first time? An independent child? A fearless child. A natural leader.

I am blessed with two such sons. Today, workbox #3, Field Trip, was replaced with "Fight with Mom for One hour and Ten Minutes over Assigned Chore."

I'm sure the fight wouldn't have lasted so long if I weren't just as bull-headed as he is. I am slowly learning which fights are worth fighting and when it's time to drop the rope, or even not pick it up at all and avoid the tug of war altogether.

You see, over the weekend we had several problems with Thing One not wanting to hang up his clothes in his room. Instead of hanging up two shirts as asked, he hid them under a shelf in the classroom. When I found them, I informed him that he would be helping Mom do all the household laundry this week.

So yesterday he helped me carry them all downstairs, sort them, and load each load into the washer, then the dryer.

Today, I asked him to hang up all his own clothes, and put his underwear and socks away in his drawer. Reasonable, right? He is perfectly capable of doing this job. It is not easy for him, it is a challenge, but well within his capabilities.

Oh, the fits that ensued. Mom, I need your help. I can't do this by myself. It's too hard. It's too much.

It doesn't have to be perfect, I say. It just has to be completed. If you do not finish before this time, we will not be able to go on our field trip, you will not be allowed to come downstairs and visit with the person who is stopping by (for my extrovert son, this is torturous).

For an hour, this continued. Whining, excuses, pleading, begging. I stayed strong but calm. No, I said, I will not do your work for you. To myself I was saying, am I being too harsh on him? Am I just being too stubborn? Am I asking him to do something he's not able to do independently?

Why is this important? I kept asking myself. What do I want him to learn from this experience?I want him to learn to take care of his own things. I want him to appreciate when others do something for him. I want him to learn to be persistent when things are not easy, when he's doing a task he doesn't want to do. I want him to have a sense of accomplishment from finishing a job. By himself.

Then, on the monitor, I heard him say over and over to himself, "It doesn't have to be perfect. It just has to get done. It doesn't have to be perfect!"

He's got it! I thought. By george, he's really got it. In five minutes he was done, downstairs having a snack and visiting with our friend.

I envy parents who just know they are doing the right thing all the time. Who have this inner compass, or a set of cultural or religious rules that clearly define how one should approach each and every parenting decision. I struggle constantly with these decisions. Perhaps it's because my experiences with a special needs child in public preschools have made me doubt my parenting skills. I second guess myself constantly, and struggle with consistency. I know we will repeat this scenario in another week or two, with a different chore or school assignment. But by george, today he got it.


  1. This post make me think a couple of things. First, every child is a special needs child, but schools tend to forget that. Second, any parents who "knows" they are doing the right thing is lying. :)

  2. Amen to that Kristy! Yes, Every child has their own set of special needs and yes, I have been blessed with the very same stubborn, strong willed, fearless leader of a child who wants everything in its place all the time and wants it done right. Since he got those personality traits from me, I struggle with balancing my own personality so as not to increase (for lack of a better work) those characteristics in him. I have to work very hard at making those same decisions too and am constantly second guessing myself. I think that dealing with a child like ours can be very hard on the self-esteem of the mother. It makes for a difficult situation. Keep up the good work mama, and just as you told your son, "it doesn't have to be perfect," - we mother's don't have to be perfect either.

  3. Just found your blog. I love this post! I think that struggle is universal in moms. And I love that he "got it" - gives me hope for my "perfectionistic child who won't do anything unless he can do it perfectly the first time." (Who BTW shares NONE of those other qualities with your boys!)