By Stephanie Olson
One of the oddest parts of being a stay-at-home parent is not having much feedback on how you’re doing. As a student, I was fiercely motivated by getting good grades and wanting teachers to tell me that I was smart and doing a good job. Then, I moved into the working world and that same process became even more rigid and codified. I always worked hard to ensure that my bosses and coworkers gave me good reviews and that my clients were happy with my performance. I loved the meetings where I walked out feeling valued and appreciated.
As a mom, most of my feedback involves complaints about eating what just took me an hour to cook for dinner or the fact that I am forcing some child to do something that he finds to be incredibly awful. Kids tend not to remember to praise you for the things you’ve done well. My husband, God love that dear man, does tell me that I’m doing a great job and that what I’m doing is important but I miss those solid moments. I miss those specific times when I could look at something – a meeting that went well, a sale that was made, a project completed or a promotion received – and know that I had done a good job. Those moments are tougher to find when raising little ones.
But I had one recently! A tiny, beautiful, sliver of a moment when I knew it was working. My three-year-old came home after his second day of preschool and hung up his backpack. Yep, that’s it. He hung up his backpack. You see, I was trying to clean up after dinner that night and I couldn’t find his backpack to put away. I was looking all over. Then, I walked into his room and there it was! He had hung it on his little blue rocket hook just as I had asked him to the day before. He did it without me having to even remind him. He knew the routine. He knew his expectations. He understood that it was his job and he did it. A moment like this tells me that I’m getting through. He is becoming a functioning little person. I see the seed of a person who will (hopefully) become a contributing member of society someday.
Parenting is a game of extraordinarily delayed rewards. I’m talking a glacial pace sometimes. It’s not often that I quote Donald Rumsfeld but I think a “…long, hard slog…” would sum it up pretty well. I often find myself wondering if I’m even making any progress. You think you’re instilling things in their little minds but then you have to remind them of the same thing 50 more times and you wonder if anyone is even listening to you. You’re not sure if you’re really getting through to them. And then, one day, you notice that they hung up their backpack after preschool all by themselves and you have to stop and enjoy that tiny moment. Sometimes, that’s all you get for a while. You have to smile and tell yourself that you are getting through. Let it sustain you for a while.
So, I am sitting here and I am enjoying a cup of coffee and I am writing myself a performance review in this little article. Well done, Steph. Now, if I could just get him to zipper his own pants…