Who Knew that Being a Kid was so Daunting…
Did you know that life is impossible? I had no idea.
- Life is impossible when Dad asks you to practice multiplication tables.
- Life is impossible when you have to put your own shoes on.
- Life is impossible when the seat belt doesn’t buckle on the first try.
- Life is impossible when your shorts are inside out.
- Life is impossible when the cheese melts outside the square perimeter of your grilled cheese sandwich and requires removal.
So what does one do when life is impossible?
Apparently you drop to the floor, curl up in the fetal position, and scream “LIFE IS IMPOSSIBLE!” At least that’s what my boys do. Sigh.
Scott and I tried to cajole the boys back to reality by helping them. It didn’t work.
Next, we tried reasoning with them and explaining logically how all of these challenges could be overcomed. Fail.
We tried screaming “life is impossible” at the top of our lungs and simply join the chaos. That just made our heads hurt more.
After months of hearing how difficult our children’s lives are, we finally did what any rational, self-interested parent would do.
WE SWITCHED PLACES WITH THE KIDS!
Brilliant. You see, not only did Jack and Eli feel that their lives were impossible, they also saw Scott and my life as perfect.
Parents get to do whatever we want.
Really? I must have missed that memo.
So Scott and I began switching roles with the kids. We got up in the morning, sat on the couch in our underpants, screamed across the room asking if we could play Minecraft, and demanded breakfast.
It was awesome.
We went to the bathroom and screamed for someone to wipe our hineys or run to the cupboard and bring a new roll of toilet paper.
The boys were repulsed.
We begged for new iPods, iPads, Legos, and games. We complained that it was too hot to go outside and too boring to stay inside. We refused to do math, refused to eat veggies, and demanded an endless stream of band-aids for artificial boo-boos that were life threatening.
Gawd it was epic.
Meanwhile, Jack and Eli had to figure out how to make food, do the dishes, wash underpants, pay bills and mow the lawn. Oh, and also where the spare toilet paper is located.
I’m not sure if you ever saw this video before, but when it came across my Facebook feed a year or so ago and I fell out!
So how did Jack and Eli experience this? With some amount of grumpiness and chagrin. They certainly began to appreciate that life for adults is not absolute freedom. Adults don’t hop out of bed every morning and do whatever they want to do. Far from it!
I had a lightbulb moment and realized that as adults we rarely complain about the tasks we take on each day. I never say a word when I’m grinding through Tony Horton’s P90X workout while the kids play Legos. I rarely roll my eyes at the ninth grocery visit for the week or the fact the bed needs to be made and the kitchen needs to be cleaned once again.
I just handle up on all that non-fun stuff and keep moving.
Until now. This experience taught me that my kids need more transparency. Life isn’t about overcoming the challenge of multiplication tables or clothes with multiple buttons. Life is about keeping your focus on what matters most – meeting your needs. I want to be fit and live a long life, therefore I’m willing to exercise daily and eat a healthy diet. I would rather eat chocolate cake on the couch, but that won’t help me meet my needs.
Jack wants to chat with his friends on the Minecraft server. So that means he has to learn how to type and spell. Otherwise, he won’t get his need for online socialization met.
Eli wants to be capable. He wants to be big and perceived as a big kid. Well, that’s not going to happen if putting your shoes on incapacitates you and wiping your own tush is a monumental effort.
The bottom line is that life has always been challenging. It was hard to learn how to hold a sippy cup, crawl, walk, chew, talk, run, etc. We fail over and over again until we eventually learn how to do what we want to do with more skill. Yet, what motivates us is that we want that outcome. Babies want to feed themselves. Toddlers want to walk. Preschoolers want to run. And so on.
Beyond helping my kids see that an adult life is full of challenges and compromises, we’ve also worked on helping the kids find value in the various activities they find frustrating. For example, Jack wants to be a famous archaeologist. Yet, if I tell him he needs to know his multiplication tables to become an archaeologist he won’t really see the value. The reward is too far off.
However, Jack also wants to do things independently like earn money for new Lego sets or run errands in the grocery store. So now I take those multiplication tables and ask Jack questions that directly relate to shopping like “How much money should I give you to get five boxes of salami for $3.00 each?” Then I give him the amount of money he tells me he needs and he goes off to buy the salami. If he doesn’t have enough, then he doesn’t get to complete his task. When he finds a new Lego set he want to buy, I ask him how many $5 chores he will need to do to earn enough money.
BINGO! The reward is now in sight and Jack understands the value of multiplication.
Pretty cool, huh?
So far it’s been working. I’m sure we have more impossible life moments ahead of us, but for now I have to say that the din of our household is every slightly quieter right now. Score!