Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Orientation: Consider Your Direction

John is thrilled to go back to 'cool this week.

He and his buddy attend a Child's Morning Out program that John absolutely loves. He pulled out his 'Piderman lunchbox and his Buzz Wightyear backpack. He's ready to roll.

Orientation took place yesterday. My friend Rachel and I met the teacher and filled out paperwork that included a dozen or so questions about habits, fears, medical issues, etc.

A few of these simple questions stumped us both.

What household responsibilities does your child have? What disciplinary techniques do you use?

Rachel got my attention, and we both began to laugh.


I racked my brain and finally scribbled - and I wish I had just left it blank - "John takes items to the trash can."

How lame is that?

As for disciplinary techniques, I wondered if I should provide the long one (ones tried) or the very short one (ones we've found effective).

I moved on to goals. Goals? I want to clean my house and have it remain free of Rescue Heroes, Thomas and Friends, Matchbox cars, and smeared peanut butter for four consecutive hours, six if John naps after 'cool. If I get the house done quickly, my goal is to eat cheese dip and pico de gallo with my friend Anna.

Sure that these were not the goals the teacher had in mind, I actually wrote:

1. Have fun.
2. Relate well with peers.

The teacher passed out bags for each child. She asked us to write the child's name on the back so he'll begin recognizing his name in print. While I was puzzling over John recognizing his name in print, the teacher and a mother began a serious conversation about writing the name in all caps or using a combination of upper and lower case letters.

Clearly this orientation was more for my benefit than for John's.

Orientation is "the ascertainment of one's true position." It means to confirm your direction. All of the events of this morning nudged me to consider the direction we are facing with the one-of-a-kind, brown-eyed bundle of energy that is our John.

This summer, in truth, has been less about lofty goals and clear direction than about:

1. Having fun.
2. Surviving the heat.

(I would add a third item - Complete potty training - but to even put this in writing is to allow the slightest doubt as to whether or not we are done. We are done. I am done. It is done.)

Summer is waning. Fall is nearly upon us. It's time to think about goals, to consider our direction.

During my years of parenting, I have had a number of "aha" moments - such as this orientation - that brought into stark focus some aspect of child rearing.

Just after Kolbe's birth, I was hit with a debilitating case of mastitis. I literally couldn't stand up. As I was waiting for Dave to come back home from work, Tim woke up hungry. I told him what he should eat and where he could find it. He managed fine.

Just after John's first birthday, I read a parenting article that said a one year old should be able to bring an item to you when asked.

"Ridiculous!" I thought.

I looked over at a nature puzzle and said, "John, bring me the bird." He did it!

Last spring I was preparing to spend Mother's Day with my ailing mom. I began pondering the number of household jobs I had never taught the older boys - how to cook something besides mac and cheese, how to run the washing machine, and the list went on. As I went through my days, I began to show the boys how I did certain things. I find that when my children have to do something - lo and behold - they are fully capable of doing it.

The other morning I left Tim charge as I took Ainsley to a doctor's appointment. I called to check on the home front and heard an epic meltdown in progress. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry when I heard Tim yell to Kolbe, "Just put a show on for him! Just put a show on for him!" Him being our dear John, of course.

"Just where did he pick up that strategy," I wondered.

To be sure, there is a time to keep the peace. Many a dinner around here has made it to the table with a little assistance from Bob the Tomato and Larry the Cucumber.

There is also a time to consider our orientation, to adjust our direction, to set a few goals, both lofty and mundane. There is a time to take a toddler by the hand and help him grow into a little boy.

That time is upon us.

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