I mentioned in Friday's weekend reading post that I'd spent an unusual amount of time chauffeuring children last week. Some of that was a product of chance: Mr. Snarky, who usually takes Petunia to her swim lesson on Mondays, had an all day planning meeting, and needed me to do it, instead. I had a meeting that ran a little late, and then traffic was unusually bad, so my commute from my client site to the YMCA where the kids are in summer camp was longer than usual. We got to swim lesson, but we were 15 minutes late. That might not sound like much, but it is only a 30 minute lesson.
Tuesdays are usually my chauffeuring day: I pick both kids up at camp, then we drive to Petunia's art lesson. Mr. Snarky swings by there (it is on his way home from work) and picks up Pumpkin and takes her to piano.
That is usually all for the weekdays. I take the kids to their Saturday morning gymnastics lesson. Mr. Snarky usually uses that time to go for a run. This week, he used it to wash beer bottles. Whatever makes him happy, I say.
Anyhow, this week, I added a make-up gymnastics class on Wednesday afternoon. I knew I'd be tired from driving the kids to activities the previous two days. I also knew I'd probably be behind on my non-client work (I usually come home on Monday afternoons and get some of that work done before it is time to make dinner). So why did I schedule that make-up class? In general, we'll just lose the class if we have to miss it. None of our classes are expensive enough to make that feel terribly wasteful.
I scheduled the make-up class because Pumpkin really wanted me to. She has recently moved up a level in gymnastics, and her new class is quite a bit harder than the old one. This was not surprising: several other parents had told me that their daughters found this particular level transition hard. Pumpkin is not used to finding things hard, though, and she didn't like it. She told me she wanted to quit gymnastics.
Now, I don't have many parenting theories, but one I do have is that it is essential that my kids get to practice sucking at something and then getting better. In fact, I consider this a life theory, and still practice this myself. It is part of why I took up crochet, which I really do still suck at. But I'm getting better! Instead of going on and on about the reasons for my belief that people should practice sucking at something and working to get better, I'll point anyone who is interested to a recent Chronicle Vitae post I wrote on the subject.
Pumpkin and I had a talk about why she wanted to quit gymnastics, and as I guessed, she didn't really. She just didn't like not being able to do any of the skills in the new class. If she had really stopped enjoying gymnastics, I'd have let her quit. But instead, we talked about how it is uncomfortable when you try to do something and you can't, especially if there are people around you who can do it. We talked about how often that happens in life, and how if you keep working at it, you'll get better. I told stories about times I've had to "level up." And she decided she wanted to stay in gymnastics, but work harder to get better.
How does she work harder? She takes some extra classes. She does some private lessons.
And so, I'll be driving the kids to gymnastics on a few Wednesday afternoons. It will be a pain in the ass. Traffic coming home is unpleasant. I will lose out on some work time and have to make it up in the evenings. But it is worth it for Pumpkin to get to practice sucking at something and sticking with it until she gets better.
I am not a saintly mother. For instance, this Saturday, I took a nap in the hammock instead of playing games or doing puzzles with Petunia like she wanted. After my nap, she told me that she wanted to invent a new cookie recipe. I'll confess that I wasn't sad when she forgot about that until it was too late to do it this weekend. I get impatient with Pumpkin's detailed discussions about what outfit she is going to wear which day to camp and why. I suspect that sometimes she can tell I'm impatient. Just this morning, I upset Pumpkin by telling her she had to get out of my office because I needed to concentrate on what I was doing and she would not stop talking.
If I were to try to turn myself into the sort of mother who doesn't resent any of the impositions on her time, I would fail. But I can at least be strategic about which impositions I allow. What my selective selfishness buys me is the reserves to suck it up and add an extra day of driving to an afternoon activity when it matters most.