Over the summer, D developed an intense fear of public restrooms after getting too close to a very loud automatic flusher. It sounds like a silly thing to be afraid of, but it's no laughing matter for our boy. All summer long, I tried in vain to soothe my teary, red-faced sobbing boy through diaper changes and trips to the restroom for A while out on adventures. All summer long, I failed.
A few weeks ago, both kids started fall swim lessons, and we discovered that D's restroom phobia also extends to locker rooms. There's no cry quite so loud as one that echoes off wall-to-wall tile and metal lockers, so our first few attempts at swim class haven't been so successful. D cried the entire first class and wouldn't let me set him down once after the trauma of the locker room.
We've managed to find a way around the locker room on the way into the pool, but there's no way out of it after class (unless I change him in the car). He's had one great class and one where he asked to go home a few minutes into class, and now we're debating whether we try again or call it a day on swimming and wait until he's a bit older (and over this particular fear) to try swimming again.
A has had a tougher time adjusting to five days of preschool a week than I had anticipated. The fours class runs a tight schedule, and our free-spirited girl has chafed against the rules and structure in the first few weeks of school. My heart sank on my first few co-op days in her classroom as I heard her push back her chair and say, "I can't!" without actually trying the offending project.
We've worked hard in the last week and a half. All you have to do is try, we've told her. Try before you decide something is too hard. I've done my best to model patience (look, this person is cutting in front of our car! That makes me so mad, but it's silly to be mad because it's already over now, right?) and as patience isn't always my strong point it's been a good exercise for me too.
She's an active girl, my A, and being with her at school has reminded me how much more physical she can be than the average girl. What looks like average active play for a boy can look like roughhousing for a girl, even to her own mother at times. A has had more than one run-in with boys who don't want a girl to join in their games, and she's struggled to make peace with the boys vs. girls dynamic on the playground this year.
A has had a breakthrough this week, though: she's had four good days in a row, and instead of hearing how hard particular projects were I'm hearing what they did and who she played with and what the snack was. It's so nice to be pulled aside by the teacher to hear how well she listened instead of hearing that she smacked someone on the playground or stormed off into the corner during work time.
Where do you draw the line between encouraging your child
and pushing them? Between helping them navigate rules and norms and
meeting them where they are? I don't want my son to be afraid, and I don't want my daughter to feel frustrated...but I also want to help D conquer his fears and I need to help A understand the rules of school and beyond. Four and 20 months seems so little to be contemplating these kinds of questions.
For now, we try to strike a balance, to honor who they are but help them find a way to fit into the world around them...but for the first time as a mother, I'm finding myself wishing they could stay little a bit longer and put off some of these things for another day.