I can be a little tough on my kids, more so on the Big Guy, as he is almost three. I have these moments where I get it stuck in my head that I can help him reach that next developmental milestone...or simply catch up. The Big Guy has been developmentally slower than average, but he is by no means stupid. He grasps most things just fine, however, there are a few things that he really struggles with which really drive me nuts.
The problem (besides me, of course) is that as a parent we are given all of these abstract ages by which our kids should be doing certain things. Books and doctors tell you that your kids should be able to walk, talk, hop, skip and jump between X months and Y years. Then if your child goes over that amount they just say that you should wait a little while as it may start happening any day. And if you go past that, then they send you to developmental specialists...and having been to one before for the Bug Guy, I have little faith in their expertise.
There are no step-by-step instructions on how to help guide your kids to success, if there was I would be fine and blogging would seem a waste to me. So some parents subscribe to the ultra casual approach of "they'll get there when they get there". Good for them, but I think that mentality is a bunch of horseshit. To me it seems lazy, then again maybe it is pure genius (I'm leaning more towards the prior).
That brings us to tonight. I had gotten the Big Guy's bath ready and it was time to get undressed. I asked him to take off his shirt and he starts pulling it in all sorts of directions and making these obnoxious grunting sounds. All of his moves are over exaggerated, he keeps dropping his hands to his side, looking up at me and breathing heavy as if to say "well...I gave it the ol'college try, Dadda. Now you do it for me." So I sit down and I start telling him how to do it.
"Grab your shirt sleeve and pull it out. Then pull your arm back in" I say. He goes back to the abstract tugging and grunting. "No, that's not what I said. C'mon, we've been over this a hundred times. You know how to take your shirt off, just grab your shirt like this," I say as I grab the bottom of my t-shirt sleeve and pull it out towards my outstretched hand to show him, "and pull your arm back like this". He proceeds to grab the top of his sleeve and pulls it across his chest, while trying to pull his sleeved arm back the other way. It's obvious that this is not working, but he keeps going (and so do I).
Next I tell him to quit that method and to try another way.
"Grab the back of your shirt like this," I say as I grab the neck of my shirt from behind my head, "and pull it over your head like this". He grabs his shirt and pulls it on top of his head, and while I am about a 6 out of 10 on the frustration scale I still find it hard to not laugh as he looks like Beavis playing Cornholio. He keeps pulling the shirt up as the neck of the shirt gets stuck under his chin, so I tell him to just pull the front of his shirt over his face. He just keeps doing the same thing, looking at me like I am speaking another language.
This has now been going on for 15 minutes. Frustration scale is now 7 out of 10. A smart man would give up here and just do it, a smarter man would never have started this in the first place and I am neither of those two men.
I tell him to go back to the other method, because this is clearly not working and as I have seen him do it the other way successfully, I figure we should just stick to it. The tugging in odd directions and exaggerated grunts starts again. I sit watching him for 5 minutes.
Frustration has reached 10.
This is where I unattractively lose my cool. The "oh gods" come out, my face drops into my hands, the stare down begins and I punch the floor (my hand still hurts as I am writing this). I told you this wouldn't be pretty.
So I walk out of his room, close his door and try to cool off. At this point, I keep thinking two things: why does this matter to me and why can't he do what he has been able to do before?
I know the answer to the first question; if I knew the answer to the second then I wouldn't be writing this.
Newsflash, kids are mean. If you aren't at least normal, you are cast into the loser group. To make matters worse, we now have social media so other kids who aren’t as cool as they think broadcast our kid’s not-so-cool attributes all over the Internet.
When I was a kid, if you weren't one of the cool kids or at least somewhere in the middle, then the worst part of your day was at school. Now that crap can follow you home. I get that he is almost only three and it is probably a couple years before kids get really mean, but I don't want to wait until some kids are making fun of him. So yes, I put a lot of pressure on myself to teach him these things and consequentially a load of pressure is dropped on him. At times like these I feel like I'd make a better Bela Karolyi than I do a Dad. It's unfair to both of us and frankly ruins evenings or even whole days depending on when the charade starts, but somehow I feel like this is all for the greater good...though I am not entirely sure how.
I come back in the room, not cool as a cucumber...more like a squash which in case you didn't know is not so cool. He climbs out of his bed and I tell him to try again, but this time try the other arm first. He pulls his arm right out of the sleeve like he's been doing it for years, like I have seen him do before. I am ecstatic! I tell him to do the other arm. He does it in a flash. He takes his shirt off and tosses it in the hamper with a huge smile on his face.
"That's my boy," I say "let's try it again". So I take out his shirt and put it back on him (this is where I imagine hearing a resound "what an asshole" from my readers). This time he struggles like he has never taken his shirt off by himself ever before in his life. He is putting his arm up through the bottom of the shirt, pulling on the neck, making the grunting noises and raising my frustration level again. So I tell him to drop his hands and just relax, then when he is relaxed I tell him to try again. He pops his right arm out and then his left.
I am smiling and laughing. He has a big shit-eating grin on his face. I offer him up a high-5 and a fist bump. He is swelling with pride and frankly so am I.
I give him a hug and tell him I love him. He gives me a kiss and off to bed he goes.
Now was that so hard? Yes. Yes, it was. Who knows? Maybe he'll wake up tomorrow and he won't need my help getting dressed or undressed anymore. But if you believe that, then I have some beach front property in Idaho that I'd love to sell you.