Mornings are always a little crazy for me. They start out fairly harmless, running a few minutes behind schedule. But, time usually seems to run away from me, and I end up rushing between the hours of 7 and 8 a.m.
It is not uncommon for Elliot to be in a disagreeable mood that delays our departure from the house. Whether he refuses to brush his teeth, wants to find a certain book to take in the car or dawdles over the decision between a banana and Vanilla Wafers as a morning snack, I’m used to these instances slowing our morning routine.
Lately, however, Elliot has developed a new way to occasionally make us late. (Related side note: It is both admirable and annoying that children have no sense of urgency. They don’t care if adults are late for something, even if they’re the cause of it.)
I mean this when I say it – I want Elliot to have a sense of independence. I really do. I want him to be confident he can complete tasks.
I do not want to defeat him by telling him he’s not capable of achieving a goal – whether it’s learning to play tennis or zipping up his jacket.
Or, putting on a shirt. Yesterday morning, Elliot insisted on wearing a button-down shirt handed down to him from his older cousin Andrew. It’s actually almost too small for Elliot, but I told him he could wear it if he wanted to.
“I’m going to dress myself!” he announced.
“OK,” I replied, naively thinking that would not be a problem. After all, Elliot is quite capable of dressing himself when his top is a t-shirt.
Amazingly enough, yesterday morning, we were actually about 15 minutes ahead of schedule. For a couple minutes, I watched my 4-year-old struggle with which arm belonged in which hole. When I politely asked if he would like some help, he said “no.”
Knowing we had a little extra time, I let him work at it for another five minutes with still no success. “Elliot, please let me help you.” He threw the shirt across the living room, dropped to the floor and screamed, “NOOOOO! I don’t want your help.”
This scenario repeated itself two more times until I realized that not only was our extra time gone, but we were now running late – again! I gave Elliot two choices, “Let me help you put that shirt on, or you will wear this t-shirt,” showing him the back-up I had already brought downstairs.
Again, he squealed and refused either option. And, then, almost miraculously, the shirt went on the correct arms. After 17 minutes of battling with the shirt and with me, he had achieved his goal.
“Good job, Elliot! I knew you could do it,” I lied.
“Now, I have to button it,” he said.
Oh boy, I thought. “We’ll worry about that when we get to school.” Yes, he rode to daycare with his shirt unbuttoned. When we arrived, I unbuckled him from his seat. He stood up, and I watched him patiently and conscientiously button each button. It took him only a couple minutes.
I’d like to say that I learned some sort of profound lesson from this experience. While they are probably not earth-shattering, I do have two things to share. 1) Build into the morning getting-ready routine an extra 20 minutes in case of meltdowns, and 2) hide all the button-down shirts.
“Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right!” – Henry Ford
Originally published on ovparent.com.