It is 6:45 in the morning. I am pulling out dishes and prepping a quick weekday breakfast. The caffeine is still kicking in as I prepare for the everyday parenting and household tasks of the morning.
As usual, I ask both kids to set the table, which typically means they divvy up the tasks and try to make it as “fair” as possible. This particular morning my daughter quietly sets a complete place setting for herself as my son wanders aimlessly around the kitchen. He soon notices his sister is not
ordering him around negotiating with him per their normal arrangement.
I hear, “Hey, why did you only get your placemat?” She simply states, “Sorry, you’re on your own buddy.”
You’re On Your Own?
Her tone is nonchalant, she shrugs her shoulders and prepares to grab HER breakfast dishes. I am momentarily caught off guard. “You’re on your own? Buddy?“
My caring and compassionate little girl does not even sound like herself. The intonation in which she delivers these words is not in her typical speaking voice.
It is obvious she has overheard this phrase somewhere else and my first instinct is to laugh. I wonder, “Who says that?” and in the next millisecond, “Not my kid”.
Life Lessons at Breakfast
I stop her in her tracks. “Wait. He’s not on his own and neither are you. We are a family and we help each other.”
I know this sounds canned, but it gets her attention. Honestly, I could easily shrug the moment away and continue our morning momentum. But, that’s not everyday parenting.
Everyday Parenting Challenges
Parenting challenges often happen in the unexpected, everyday situations where we are the least prepared and often running late.
I will never forget the mother of twins who always seemed to have it all together arriving late to our kids’ gymnastics class many years ago. She smiled while giving us the rundown of a sibling spat on the way to the car that day.
This momma explained to our group that she stopped both kids in their tracks as they bickered on the way to the car. She sent them both back inside to work out their disagreement in the moment. I am paraphrasing her thoughts….”Having them understand their differences and make better choices is more important in the long run than being on time”.
This conversation about everyday parenting has really stuck with me over the years. I deeply admire this woman as a mother and a friend navigating a similar experience to my own. She has an older child in addition to her twins and while I view her as a veteran mother, I also see our similarities. We both are managing the dynamics of twins, multiple children, being in multiple places at once and a husband who works away from home quite a lot.
I am often reminded of her example throughout the years and the aforementioned morning was no different. It is so much easier to assert your authority and get the kids quickly “in line” for the day. While sometimes this is a necessary tactic, most of the time it takes only a moment to impart more meaningful parenting.
Imparting Values in Everyday Parenting
I get that my kids’ sibling/twin dynamic is a bit trying for the both of them at times. We see the occasional power plays as they try to assert their individuality when so often they are lumped together in life. I understand their frustrations with each other. However, this particular example is so unlike my daughter.
She is always the one stating, “We are a pair” and “We stick together”, while her brother is often the one who wants to strike out on his own. I am sure she was either testing me or just trying out this new phrase, but it was a great learning opportunity for both of them, as she is often on the other side of such a comment. I took the moment to remind them of what our family values.
While I think it is important to take care of yourself and we value teaching the kids self-sufficiency, our family also values helping others and building community. We had a short conversation about shared responsibility and helping others (which includes family), then moved on with our day, but the incident stuck with me for days afterward. It was a moment in time, but hopefully a lesson that will stick with them. We are not on our own…we are in this together.