I’m standing in my kitchen cutting up a watermelon at a very respectable speed. Ends off, down the middle, middle again, slices abound. My daughter, however, disagrees.
“Why is this taking SO LONG?” she demands. “It’s been FOREVER.” It’s literally been 3 minutes, tops. And that’s with a breakout wrestling match between my sons interrupting my skillful watermelon maneuvering.
A wave of frustration came over me. Didn’t she understand I was going as fast as I could? That I was cutting a watermelon in my pajamas at 8 a.m.? Couldn’t she understand that my immense effort as a parent should be reciprocated by her acting as a grateful and patient child?
I wanted to unleash my annoyance with her impatience until a very vivid memory came to me. It was of myself as a child about her age complaining to my own mother while she was cutting a watermelon. And then I realized, my daughter had no idea what a pain she was being. She was just a kid who wanted a piece of fruit.
That there changed the way I had been looking at my kids during these late summer days.
My mom recently told me that she used to dread the last two weeks of August when my siblings and I were kids. We were bored, whiny, impatient, and just plain annoying. None of the things that seemed magical in June held any weight at the end of August. And we drove her crazy, just like my kids are driving me crazy now.
But I don’t remember doing that at all.
Listening to my mother share her perspective helped me to realize my kids are not deliberately trying to exhaust me. Their morning discussions do not involve to brainstorming ways to drive me insane before 10 a.m. and plotting against my proposed plans for the day.
The last weeks of summer are like one long car trip.
The last weeks of summer feel like one long car trip. Everyone is uncomfortable, tired, cranky, and just wants to get to wherever we are going. My kids are not trying to be impatient, inconsiderate, or inconsolable. They are just being kids. That is something I need to remind myself of constantly.
One day they will realize…
I recently confided in my forever friend that I can’t wait for the day my kids look back and think how they challenged me and compliment me on my patience and sheer will. She smiled, and shook her head softly, so as to let me down gently. I put words to her thought.
“They actually won’t realize this one day, will they?” “No,” she said. “There’s a slight chance, but only when they are much older. And then they still won’t understand it like you do right now.”
I had been looking forward to the day my children would apologize and praise for my ability to handle it all. Now I realize that chances are, they won’t come to this realization at all. In the midst of my own late summer woes I didn’t call my mom to compliment her patience with me during my childhood. Instead, I complained about my own daughter’s impatience, and they she empathized with memories of her own.
My friend is right. I was dreaming about the day my children would applaud me, and I didn’t realize I had once been just an annoying end of summer kid, too.
It took 34 years and three kids of my own to even fathom the possibility that I was once the tired, bored, and impatient summer kid who didn’t realize that my mom was probably tired, bored, and impatient, too. It didn’t mean she wasn’t happy or that she didn’t love being with us. The only thing it really meant is that it was late summer and we were all ready for school to start again.
I was just a kid and they are just kids. We are all doing our best to ride out the last leg of this car trip.
Years from now, my children likely will not be thanking me for the patience I showed them from August 15th-31st each year. But maybe if I can remember that I was once “just a kid” during these trying, annoying, and exhausting late summer days, it could help them when/if they are parents, too. Perhaps they will approach the second half of August knowing that in 80% of the time no child is setting out to deliberately be a pain, they are just being a kid.
The other 20% of the time? A measured and premeditated attack on a parent’s sanity.