I've been thinking about something my mom told me.
You will never really know if something you did made a significant difference to your child, 90% of the time. Sometimes it is really clear. Mostly, you have to wait until your kids are grown, and especially until they have kids, to know if you did a good job as a parent.
I think that's a bit overstating the case, but the theme certainly is true.
When I'm in the middle of working on something (say, using words instead of hands to solve a problem), it feels INTERMINABLE. Sometimes that's because I'm going about it wrong, and I really am running up against a brick wall. Sometimes it is because they're not developmentally ready for it. Neither really stop me - I'm still going to work on it, even if I'm early on it. And work, and work, and work.
Remembering that this stuff finds a space in certain developmental stages helps keep me on a more even keel over it.
But sometimes I feel like no matter what I do, they're right back to whatever it was that I am trying to get them to NOT DO.
But the payoffs do come, in little flickers and moments. They're just a few years down the road from where I started. Now that Miss M and Miss R are getting closer to five, I'm seeing more of it take root. And seeing it in the youngest kids I have helps me realize that I've been seeing stuff taking root in the older ones, too - there's just been some masking by the fact that younger kids will intersect badly with older ones more often, which makes the older ones look like they're not functioning well.
We're seeing it, even when they're not functioning well.
Last night, when Miss M was all 'I refuse to cooperate with the idea of going to bed, I'm going to bounce all over and try to get everyone else to do it with me', I gave them a count-down to turning off the light. Miss M was not ready when the light went out. I explained that I had given her a chance, actually two chances, and she would now have to get situated in the dark. She started to cry, because she couldn't figure out where she put her stuffed doggie.
I was still trying to figure out if I was being too stubborn or just holding my ground so she didn't walk over that line the next time, whether I needed to go help her find the doggie or if it would be better if she discovered that just patting around would find that it was almost right next to her, when I heard Miss R pipe up...
Mommy? Can I go turn on the light for just one second so Miss M can find her doggie? I'd like to help. I'll turn the light right off when she finds it.
(How come you're faster at figuring this out than I am, my child?)
Yes, you may help your sister. That was kindly done.
Okay, so then Miss M freaked out because she wanted to be the one to turn out the light after she found her doggie, and they had a tussle over the light switch... but they both did lie down and try to go to sleep. And I got to ponder how things take root, and when you are feeling like they take forever, and never seem to learn, those words that were said so fruitlessly so many times bear fruit.
I'm loving the fact that we're done having kids, because I can pay attention more clearly to these moments. There are payoffs, they're just disconnected from the seemingly endless effort that came before. And I am not having to wait until I'm a grandma to see it. Thankfully!