I sometimes pretend that my biggest challenges in parenting are the 'big' ones. Dealing with the Fructose Malabsorption constant dietary management or trying to get a child into a competitive high school, or the not-as-unusual-as-we'd-prefer emergency rooom visits.
But that's not the hard part for me. I do those challenges well.
The biggest real challenges for me are the little crises in the everyday, staying in the moment when I would really rather be doing something else, accepting when I'd rather make them accept. Sticking with the irritating conversation that rubs me the wrong way for reasons I haven't yet figured out (and figuring it out). Noticing when something is small-to-me-but-important-to-them.
Miss R presents me with my biggest ongoing string of challenges.
I don't relate to much of what she wants in life. She's as far from my personality as I think it is possible to get. She cares about status and protocol, and brands, and being popular. She wants flash over substance, and gravitates to style over depth. She would prefer to manipulate or charm than argue or reason. I don't know how to balance that without disparaging the things she values, I don't know how to encourage discipline and finesse and thoughtfulness in the onslaught of sparkly lip gloss and Hannah Montana and Hello Kitty without belittling sparkly lip gloss and Hannah Montana and Hello Kitty.
I personally like quality, and simplicity, and form, and she's seven and a half and wants a lunch box that she buys from a 'real' store (not online from llbean) that has sparkly skulls and crossbones on it.
Okay, at least it is sparkly skulls and crossbones.
But boy, I had to hold myself centered really hard to hear her, and acknowledge that it is important for her to pick out her own lunchbox, to select something that represents her as she wants to represent herself, to get to choose the glittery-and-ephemeral over something that will last and work well and hey, is purple at least! ... and to hear that 'at least' is not good enough when it comes to her things, for the things that she has to carry to school every day.
Acceptant is easier when they're a lot like us.
Respectful is easier when they want the things we want.
Filling out admission forms for schools for Mr G? Nuthin.
Packing up special food for every birthday party so Miss M and Miss R and Mr B can have a treat along with the other kids? Nuthin.
Waiting in an exam room so we can get some staples put in Miss M's head where she split it open? Well, not nuthin, but not as challening some days as just stopping myself from insisting that Miss R just do it My Way, pick the dang Purple Lunchbox, and suck it up.
Sometimes 'suck it up' is the right answer. Today, I think hearing that her image is up to her, not me, is the right thing. Hearing, and accepting, that she and I are really that far apart, and bridging it from my side instead of forcing her to accept my style as her own.
A little moment in time, a non-event in the larger scales of our lives, but for me, a significant little challenge.