Parenting is the ultimate test of endurance, yes? I am learning, teaching, growing everyday and just when I think I have it all figured out, I realize I don’t know anything. But that’s the greatest revelation of all because once we understand that we never really KNOW anything, that opens us up to infinite possibilities and the capacity to continue to learn and become better versions of ourselves over time. Isn’t that the spiritual journey in a nutshell anyway?
My parenting lesson today came in the form of cinnamon toast:
I asked my son what he wanted for breakfast (at least I have reached a point where choice is an option and I’m not automatically deciding for him) and he said he wanted cinnamon toast. I said, “Okay. You can make yourself that.” I am trying to let go and encourage him to do more for himself. But then I proceeded to put the bread in the toaster, get out a plate and place a napkin on it to absorb the heat of the toast so it doesn’t get soggy, get out the cane sugar and cinnamon and make the mixture, get out the vegan butter and knife…all the while letting him make his own breakfast. Yeah, okay.
When the toaster pops up the bread, I place them on the plate and show my son how to thinly spread the butter and slowly sprinkle the cinnamon sugar. I’ve shown him this multiple times, by the way. Then it’s his turn:
He takes a gob of butter, doesn’t use his left hand to hold the toast and proceeds to pat it hard on the toast without even pressure or holding the toast with his other hand. Then he scoops out another wad of butter, getting toast crumbs in the tub. I mean, it was a mess and I grabbed the knife abruptly so I could ONCE AGAIN show him how to do it properly. Then I handed him the mixture to sprinkle on. Not surprisingly, he asked that I do it because, as he said, “I’m not good at that.” Naturally, I obliged. I showed him how to gently and evenly sprinkle the toast. And there it was…perfect looking cinnamon toast that my son was supposed to make himself. But I couldn’t leave it at that. Oh no. I had to tell my little boy how disappointed I am and as I put it:
“We have to keep repeating the same lessons over and over to you because you just can’t seem to do what it is we try to teach you. How are we supposed to let go and let you do more when you can’t even master things that are at a nine-year-old level?”
Wow. Yes, I said that to my son.
Then I went on my run. As I was running in the cold, rainy, early morning weather, I commended myself for getting out there while the conditions were less than ideal. It’s so easy to pat myself on the back and belittle the efforts of others, I guess. Then my mind drifted to my son and like a slap across the face it hit me that I didn’t really teach my son anything this morning except that doing things “right” is what I expect of him so why try at all if he can’t do it the way I teach him?
Then as often happens, spirit reveals another lesson to me as I get in tune with the rhythm of my breathing and cadence of my run: The way to teach my son anything is to, yes show him the skill and how something is done, but then let him DO and do and do…and make mistakes, get the butter in big gobs, get the cinnamon sugar in a little hill on one part of the toast and sparse on other parts, get crumbs in the butter tub, get the counter top dirty…then look at the cinnamon toast and see a glorious mess of a breakfast; one that my son made all on his own without my insistence on doing it “the right way”.
You see, one day my son will be making beautiful cinnamon toast and doing everything for himself and I will long for the days when he needed me to show him how to do something and I’ll ache to see the sight of his perfect “mistakes”.
This morning I was reminded that I need to remember what I learned when I was his age: It is through the very practice that we become capable of mastering a skill. I can show him a hundred, a thousand times, how to do something but unless he does it himself, he will never learn.
And if he’s lucky, he will always make over-buttered, messy cinnamon toast because isn’t that the best kind anyway?!
Christie Tebbets is a Certified Medical Assistant, Certified personal trainer and Author of “8 Weeks to a 5k: Getting to the Starting Line Healthy & Confidently” sold on Amazon. She lives, works, writes and runs in Maine. You can find more information on her website.
Image courtesy of Bruno Nascimento.