Things don’t always go my way. Or, I guess I should say, things often don’t go the way I planned. I am baffled by these people who pretend you can map out a schedule for your day and then stick to it. Maybe that’s possible if you don’t have kids or critters in your life… and, beyond that, if you’re real intentional about valuing your own needs over anyone else’s. But I do, and I do, and I don’t. So here I am, writing at 11 p.m. on Monday what I wanted to write at 10 p.m. on Sunday.
I usually write at night, after everyone else is asleep… but last night I just couldn’t get almost-2-year-old Muggins to bed. He really thought the two of us should stay up late chatting. Finally I put him through a hot shower, then rocked him until I fell asleep. I don’t know when he fell asleep. I do know that I laid him in his crib a little after 11:00. Sometimes I stay up long past 11 o’clock, finishing the things I want to do for my own health and well-being. But last night I was so sleepy I couldn’t do it. Instead, I resolved I’d rise early and write yesterday’s blog this morning.
I had barely made coffee this morning when Asher awoke. I pointed him to the shower trying to buy myself more time. But then Beau stopped by (he’d already been out and about) to go over his plans for the day. The other kids started straggling into the kitchen soon after, and ready or not (I’m usually not ready) the morning was well underway.
First things first, I got our day off on the wrong foot. We hadn’t had breakfast and we hadn’t been outside for fresh air — both of which help us think better — but for some unfathomable reason I decided that (in light of piano practice being tonight at 6 p.m.) Asher and I could sit at the piano and quickly go through a new song together.
For whatever reason — was it something I said or did? did the rooster wake up on the wrong side of the bed? — Asher froze up at the keys this morning. This is something he’s prone to — freezing up when he gets frustrated (Beau says Asher gets it from him. Maybe it’s a Man Thing?). And piano is not easy for Asher. Music is not natural to him, nor is rhythm. But Beau and I have decided He Needs To Learn It for a few reasons:
1 — we think there is much to learn about life through learning music.
2 — we want to show him how to conquer something that is not easy for him.
3 — we believe the understanding of music is a gift that can be used throughout one’s life.
4 — we both love music. But Beau, unfortunately, has never learned how to read it or make it. He doesn’t have natural rhythm, either, which makes dancing with him really difficult. I spent the first couple years of our marriage trying to teach him how to dance. It’s like he has a perpetually irregular heartbeat; he always puts his foot down at the wrong time! I guess I’m a rhythm snob, so we finally had to agree that (for the health of our marriage) dancing will not be part of our life. For obvious reasons we’ve brainstormed several approaches to preparing our kids to avoid this scenario in their own lives, the first of which is to start teaching rhythm and music at an early age. Maybe some people (I nominate Beau) can never master rhythm. But I hold out high hopes for our kids.
Anyhow. This morning Asher froze up at the piano keys. He’s been in piano lessons for a few months now and he’s got the concept of the notes… but also that irregular heartbeat. He’s very methodical and scientific in choosing where to put each finger as he plays, which causes his rhythm to come out pretty sporadically… and if you try to rush him through it (or force him to stick to the beat), he’s apt to freeze up. That’s what he did this morning. Now, he did it once last week and I outsmarted him: to demonstrate that rhythm is consistent and steady and must keep going, I played his little song over and over and over again on my end of the piano, without stopping, always encouraging him, until he got his head on straight and willed himself to play along with me.
But it didn’t work today. I tried the same thing — playing the song nonstop, waiting for him to process what was going on and reason his way through his frustration and catch up. (We’ve explained to him what an important life lesson this is, how reasoning his way through frustration will serve him in so many future scenarios.) But today he couldn’t do it. He just kept getting more and more frustrated. I cracked the whip for like an hour (!), thinking he would turn his train around and we would both emerge victorious — my way having worked (four stars for my parenting skills!) and him having defeated his freeze-up tendency. But it never happened.
Instead, I eventually had to give up. I had to admit that my way wasn’t working today, that my attitude had progressed well past the point of quality parenting, that the sane thing to do was let him take a break from the piano, get some breakfast and some fresh air and try again later.
Before I could force myself to let him quit, though, I said a few sharp words that I soon wished I hadn’t said. My excuse? I was walking that fine line of parenting that runs between pushing a kid to accomplish what you know he’s capable of… and backing off so he can be whatever little person he wants to be.
We made pancakes, bacon and eggs for brunch. And then we all went for a long walk. And I apologized to all the kids that I hadn’t been a better leader this morning. And I asked their forgiveness for getting cranky. And I thanked them for giving me the okay to start the day over. And then I got to remind them that God does the same for all of us; we can start fresh with God any time we want.
And that, friends, was our lesson this morning. It wasn’t the lesson I expected to teach today. The things I accomplished today weren’t at all the things I jotted down in my planner last night. But if in the end what really matters is the list of Good Things We Accomplished Today — as I discussed in this blog from May — then humility and restoration surely are worthwhile additions to that list.
P.S.: After two or three hours away from the piano, Asher and I returned to it later this afternoon. And you know what? It had clicked for him while he was up and away from the keys. He played the song effortlessly, as I always knew he could… but which I couldn’t force him to do. Oh, and the clock has worked its way around to bedtime again, and my chance to write has presented itself again as it always does. So it’s a happy ending today no matter how you look at it.
Now, a few notes written yesterday (January 19, 2020).
Today’s Weather: Low of 0. High of 33. Bright and sunny.
Today On The Ranch: The big kids spent last night at the Ogrens’ house, so Beau and I were on our own with the littles this morning. I had promised Beau I’d whip up the shrimp and grits recipe from Pioneer Woman’s latest cookbook. With them I won his heart all over again:
The perfect Sunday morning breakfast.
The cold Beau’s been fighting for several days is taking a toll today, so after breakfast I left him home to recuperate and I ran in to the church with Marsi and Muggins. (There was a meeting about the church’s upcoming prime rib dinner fundraiser, scheduled for Sunday, February 9.) On the way home, since I’ve been keeping a bit of a log of how long it takes the Yellowstone River to freeze up under the Myers Bridge, I took this photo:
It’s almost completely frozen now, except for an open current on the far bank.
The original plan for the day was that Beau would take all four kids to cake cows so that I could be at home alone to solve the Christmas decorations dilemma (they were all hurriedly stashed behind closed doors in our bedroom after New Year’s Day). But Beau still wasn’t feeling great, and the kids were pretty worn out after their big weekend, so I volunteered to leave all of them home and go caking by myself!
The Christmas decorations didn’t get put away today… but as I drove out to the pasture and caked cows I did get some time to hear my own thoughts, to listen to podcasts, and on the way home I parked for about an hour in a silent, empty pasture and worked on (yep, they’re still at my house) The Christmas Cards. The big goal is to have all of our Christmas cards mailed out by the first of February. I can do this. Can I do this?!
When I made it in from caking it was soon bedtime. But Muggins thought it was party time. For more information, please return to the top of this post.
© Tami Blake