One of the benefits of living in an area where you are bombarded with wintry weather is the beloved snow day. Happiness abounds when school is closed for the day because of weather or road conditions. Today was such a day – while the sun was shining bright, the snow drifts were high. And even though we have a snowblower, my boy got up and dressed and donned his winter gear to pick up a shovel and attack the driveway.
As I was sipping my tea on the couch in the warmth of my home, I was watching him do this simple chore. (Or perhaps not so simple, depending on your perspective!) As he was shoveling, I marveled at his strength to be able to lift such a large scoop to dump the snow onto the giant snowbanks surrounding the yard. And that’s when it hit me.
I am running out of time.
This year, my oldest son will be 12. The last of the younger years before he morphs into a teen. I have been terrified of the teenage years my whole mothering life – mostly because I wasn’t a terrific teen. I pushed buttons. I challenged. I wanted to do my own thing. These are the things that teenagers do, before they blossom into young adults. As a mother, it scares me.
When you are dealing with sweet little babies, or chasing after toddlers you never think that period of life will ever end. People may tell you, but you don’t believe them. You’re just desperately thankful that you’re speaking with someone over the age of three. And then it happens.
Once they hit school age, the years just seem to fly by. I know there are 365 days in a year, and sometimes days and weeks and even months feel long. But time is a funny thing – despite all that, the years keep rolling into each other and before you know it, you’re running out of time.
Running out of time is where I am right now.
Just yesterday I received a note from a disgruntled teacher who was unhappy with me because I allowed my child to come to school for his swimming club without his swimsuit and towel. Moreover, there was an accompanying note with it saying why I wouldn’t be bringing it to him if he asked. I’m sure that sounds terrible, but before you slap me with the “worst mother ever” label, please consider one little word – responsibility.
Responsibility is a such a small word for such a large thing. Just a handful of letters, but they hold powerful meaning. Responsibility is why I am running out of time.
When my children were very little, it was so exciting when they learned new things. Just like every other parent on the planet, I was eager to record their sweet little voices singing their ABCs for the first time. (Although, if we’re being honest, in the case of Aiden it was more like his first time going through a set of flash cards). Every success was celebrated.
When they began school, it was so exciting to witness them learning to read. A lot of time and love and care on the teachers behalf went into that – and we just sat back and helped them with a word here and there along the way. Still, ever success was celebrated.
But here’s the thing – we are teaching our children at home too. We teach them how to use a toilet, how to brush their teeth and tie their shoes. We teach them how to zip and button, how to hold a fork. In Canada, we teach them how to pull on snowpants, and to never leave the house without mittens and a hat when it’s cold. And when they get the hang of it, we celebrate their success.
But still, we are running out of time. Because no one stops learning at any point in our lives. And there is more to our job as a parent than sending them to school to be educated and teaching them self care. We also need to teach them responsibility.
So when I got that note from the disgruntled teacher, it irked me a bit. But afterwards, I decided she maybe needed a little bit of grace because she has a young son. She likely hasn’t reached the stage I am at with my sons right now, which is why she likely already slapped that “worst mom ever” label across my face. So I just reminded her why he didn’t have his swimming gear – responsibility.
On Wednesday it’s laundry day for my kids. They are responsible for bringing their laundry to the laundry room so I can wash it. The older one can even do his own laundry if I ask him to – because I already taught him how to do it. Teaching and responsibility go hand in hand because it’s our job to teach our children to be responsible. But sometimes, when they miss the mark a little bit, they need a reminder. So on Wednesday, when I reminded my son not once, not twice, but three times to take his laundry down to be washed – and he didn’t – I told him there would be no swimming. I stood my ground and told him that I wouldn’t be sneaking in after his lights were out and grabbing his laundry so I could wash his swim shorts. No, because that’s not teaching him to be responsible. Instead, he had to suffer through missing swim club because he didn’t act responsibly. Will he ever miss swim club again? Maybe. But hopefully not.
Here’s the thing – it’s not just about the swimsuit. It’s about learning there are consequences to your actions when you lack responsibility, just as there are when you do something you know you shouldn’t do. It is such a valuable lesson that children need to learn before they leave the nest.
And that’ why I realized today that I am running out of time. Because he’s almost 12 which means he could leave the nest in as little as six years. And if those six years are anything like the first twelve, they will fly by in the blink of an eye.
So I need to be a little more aggressive when teaching responsibility, even though I might be labeled as the worst mother ever. I also need to finally hand him a knife even though I am afraid he might slice his little fingers so he can learn to cook. I need to continue to teach him how to be respectful. I need to treat women. There are lots of things I need to teach him before he becomes a young man. And that’s terrifying. (It’s even more terrifying when you do the math and realize you only have two extra years to add on your younger son’s timeline).
I’m running out of time. But as I sit here and type away, I see my tidy kitchen. I see the front hall where the shoes are perfectly lined up and the coats are hanging on the hooks. I see the straightened up living room. And I smile, because I didn’t do any of those things.
Time is running out, but I’ve got a head start. I think it’s going to be okay.