This morning, while I was grabbing a quick shower, the boys spotted one of Aiden’s birthday presents at the top of the cupboard. I explained that Aiden’s birthday wasn’t for another week and that he couldn’t have it now, but Cam was determined to get it for him.
While I was getting dressed, Cam kept trying. First he fetched a stepladder. When that didn’t work, he collected pillows from throughout the house and tried to build a tower with those.
As impressed as I was by his persistence, I was about to get annoyed with Cam for disobeying my instructions. But then he turned to Aiden and said, ‘I’ll get it for you Aidy. I won’t let you down.’ That stopped me in my tracks.
I took Cam aside for a little chat. I told him that it was lovely of him to help his brother but we needed to wait for Aiden’s birthday. And then Cam said, ‘But I want to be his hero.’ I couldn’t shut that down. So I grabbed the ladder, lifted him up to the top of the cupboard, and victoriously, he presented the prize to his brother.
And I’m thinking, this is one of those teachable moments parenting gurus are always going on about. Delayed gratification is an important lesson for my boys to learn. But relying on each other? Helping each other? Being heroes for each other? That’s important too.
I could leave this post here. I could end off by saying there’ll be other presents on Aiden’s birthday, but maybe this one will make a lasting impression for more important reasons – for both of them. But even as I congratulated myself on imparting wisdom to my offspring, even as I basked in the glow of my wonderous parenting, they started squabbling over the trains. Then Cameron started asking for juice and within moments that had escalated to a full-blown meltdown because I said he couldn’t have any. That lesson on delayed gratification involved tears, foot stamping and door slamming, before evolving into a tantrum about not going to school that lasted the entire drive there.
I stand by my decision to let Cam get the present for Aiden. I hope it taught him that when one is persistent for the right reasons, it pays off. That he got a warm and fuzzy feeling inside from seeing Aiden’s delight, and that it showed him that putting others first makes us feel good. I truly believe his intentions were noble, that I saw a bit of gold in him and went after it.
And the fight about the juice? As emotionally exhausting as it was, I had to do it. I know it’s just juice, but I hope he learnt that he can’t get his way just by throwing an almighty tantrum. That sometimes the answer is ‘no’ and we just have to accept that. But I always find these stand-offs leave a bitter taste in my mouth – maybe because they push me so close to losing my temper?
As I sit here enjoying a quite moment while Aiden naps and Cam’s at school, I marvel at how much these little people pack into our hours. Golden moments followed by tough ones. Smiles followed by tears. It’s exhausting. It’s an emotional roller coaster. And there’s no getting off! I’ve just got to hang on and try to enjoy the scenery as it whizzes past.