The Hard Parts

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Mondays are one of the best days of the week for me. I typically have it off from work, and have the morning to myself while G is at preschool. These are a precious three hours!  Sometimes I use this time to catch up on work for the shop. Other times I go to appointments, do the grocery shopping, or tend to other regular life tasks. My favorite days are the ones where I get to hang out at home. By myself. Fellow moms, you know what a treat this is!  If I’m being completely honest with you, I’ll go even further to say that my favorite mornings are the ones where I stay in my pajamas and catch up on The Walking Dead or How to Get Away with Murder and knit until just before pickup.

Regardless of how I spend the mornings, the afternoons are reserved for mama-daughter time. As a working parent, this one-on-one time during the day is precious to us both. There’s something about our own dynamic that really comes out on these days. She just lights up when she sees me at pick-up and gets so excited to hear what we get to do for the rest of the day.

Most Mondays we like to do a little making together. This is something that really helps me feel like a Good Mom (you know, after all those other moments over the past week, ahem) and like we’re really connecting. We often spend the afternoon baking, making play-dough, sewing, or doing other crafts.  This week we started painting some wooden Christmas ornaments that I picked up at the craft store.

It was sweet. We painted together in near-silence. I told her I loved spending the afternoon with her. “Me too, Mama,” she whispered as she focused on getting the paint just where she wanted it. I was impressed with her focus and enjoyed seeing what colors she was choosing.  I was feeling pretty pleased and a bit self-satisfied with the success level of this activity when things took a turn.

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You see, we’re at that age where G is noticing what other people do and is occasionally comparing it to what she is able to do. In this case, she got very upset because she couldn’t keep the orange paint from getting on the blue paint.  I tried helping her wipe it off and reassured her that she could go back over the blue after it had dried.

‘But yours looks better than mine!” was the final cry before she devolved into tears.

It broke my heart, this look on her face. I could imagine her ten years from now, upset from something that happened at school or with a friend, a situation I wasn’t there to help her through at the time. I want her to be confident in herself, not care what other people are doing, and just enjoy what she’s doing.

That is one of the gifts of early childhood; these blissful years when anything is possible and you are so much yourself that you radiate it. It only lasts for so long before we become self-conscious and our confidence is no longer whole.  These moments when I see her self-confidence beginning to fracture are so very hard.

We made popcorn and talked about how things are challenging when you first start out. About how my work looked different from hers because I’ve had a lot more practice. I’m so old, after all (trying desperately to ease the tension with humor)! I even threw in a good ol’ “Who says you have to stay in the lines, anyway?”

I think she’ll be ready to try again another time. We’ll both keep practicing, her painting and my parenting, and hopefully someday we’ll both be accepting of where we are and how well we’re doing it.

The good news?  After a break and a good night’s sleep, she’s ready to try again.  She’s even excited to finish her work today.  Whew.  I guess the popcorn and self-deprecation worked.

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