I learned something today, courtesy my 8 year old son.
We’ve had the same morning routine since late August. Each child has his/her own laminated routine, with pictures (for the non-readers). They’re expected to do the same thing every school day. For over 100 days now; dress, brush teeth, oatmeal bowls into the dishwasher, backpacks/jackets by the back door.
I tend to be a stickler for routine, since it helps me to maintain our home. Routine is comfort in knowing what comes next. And since change is difficult for me (we’re talking quantum physics difficult), I struggle with the flexibility required when there are interruptions in that routine.
Today, while waiting to drop George off, I asked the boys if they’d remembered their tennis shoes. (Six inches of snow on the ground here in NE Ohio over the weekend.) Both boys gasped; “Aw, Mom, we forgot our shoes!” Ethan got angry (his typical response) because today is gym day and if he doesn’t have tennis shoes, he can’t participate.
George, however, started to cry.
My sweet, caring, control freak of an 8-year-old (he comes by it honestly, as you can imagine) was terribly upset. He asked if we could go back home to get them; I told him no, that if we did that, both boys would be late for school. This set off a fresh wave of tears, and we had to sit for several minutes for him to settle down enough to get out of the van.
Something went off in my brain. A synapse fired that told me Something Isn’t Right. I didn’t know exactly what, but I made a split-second decision.
I turned around and went home.
After grabbing the boys’ shoes and dropping Ethan off (last car, but in time nonetheless!), I swung by George’s school and had the secretary call him to come get his shoes.
My child walked into the office, red-eyed and in his stockinged feet, with a smile that hasn’t been seen since he opened his newest LEGO set on his birthday. I realized immediately why he’d been so upset; he would have spent the entire day walking around in his socks. Which, to an eight-year-old who doesn’t like to stand out from his peers (really, what child does at this age?), would have been tantamount to being clad only in his underwear.
I can’t tell you why I chose to listen to that little voice. Not the one saying, “This is going to upset your entire morning,” but the one that said “This is going to hurt him.” I am a firm believer in choices and consequences and letting my kids suffer a little when they make the wrong choice. But sometimes, though we don’t deserve it, we receive compassion. And sometimes it’s more important to model compassion than it is to model correctness.
Instead of holding fast to the routine, I decided to hold fast to my child. I’m glad I did, because I think it taught us both a very important lesson.