I had walked as far as I could before the determination on my kid’s face took over him and he was going to have a “good day.” At the young age of three, after a report of his behavior was handed to us the day prior, he knew he needed to show us what happened yesterday was a fluke.
I called, “TIME” right before we walked into his room.
“Do you have your listening ears on?”
“Click click click,” he said as he “screwed” them onto his head.
“Good, now are we going to hit our friends today?”
“Noooooo,” he said as he shook his head.
“Good, I know you can do it. Be good today buddy. You are a good kid and show mom, dad, and your teacher just how good you are.”
Metaphorically, the ball was in his court. He knew what he had to do with it to make everyone proud.
Our team was counting on him.
On deck was dropping off our third-grader. Dropping him off has come to be somewhat routine. We pull into the line, I complain about someone who isn’t following the rules of the school drop-off line, I drive around them cutting them off, they get mad and flip me off (it’s actually happened), I laugh pulling to the front of the line.
In my head I call, “TIME” again taking in this moment that happens on a daily basis and look over at my oldest and say, “Be good, have a great day, and I love you!” followed by a high five and a, “I love you!” trailing off as he runs to see his friends.
The ball again was in my kid’s hands. Watching him run towards the school served as a reminder that we can do all of the coaching and setting of positive examples we want but we are relegated to sitting on the sidelines hoping that these small pep talks we give our kids every morning give them the confidence they need to make it through their day.
My oldest knew the pressure he was facing to make his parents proud. There were days that he would make us incredibly proud. Like the days he would come home to say that he made “Marvelous Musician” in music. Or the time that he improved his work-study habits on his report card. Or the time that he stood up for a girl who was getting “kissed” and didn’t want to be, even though he was the one who got in trouble.
It is days like that, that make these pep talks we give our kids easy. Parenting is far from easy and there are days that are more difficult to call our kids one of our own. The days that they come home with think sheets for not paying attention or goofing off in class or hurting someone else. The days that they are on our nerves so much that we have to ask them to go into the other room just so that we can enjoy a moment of peace to ourselves. The days that they choose not to listen when you say, “You need to stop that or you are going to get hurt.” and they don’t stop and you end up in the ER. (once again, this has happened)
“Dad, I’m sorry I should have listened to you.” were the words that came out of his mouth late that night when he came home from the ER with 3 stitches on his chin.
“It’s alright, you learned that maybe you should listen to your father. Next time you’ll listen.” While I was upset as his parent, it was in the moment he needed encouragement so that he knew that I was still on his team. Despite upsetting me, he needed my support and a reminder that I still loved him. Those are the days that tend to make giving these daily pep talks difficult.
I walked into my youngest’s classroom, wondering if he kept his listening ears on, and his teacher walked up to me. That sudden “oh no” with a million different scenarios of things he could have done wrong went through my head. This time, however, she said, “Thank you for giving him that pep talk this morning, we could tell it really helped today.”
It was then I realized that these parenting pep talks I give my kids are not just for them. They are for me to show myself that I am in fact doing my job as a parent. I am teaching them that even though there are consequences for their actions and I expect more out of them, there will be days that I know they are listening to me and that just like a head coach, they want to make me proud that they are on my team.