I live with a couple of little make-believe micromanagers.
I look at my boys, age 3 and 4, and I envision them in tiny cheap suits, hair slicked back, dark-rimmed glasses, checklist in hand.
“Mom, now you sit here and say, ‘Aahhh the bulldozer is going to get me.’ ”
“Mom, I TOLD you to laugh when I put this drill in your back.”
My eldest son’s favorite game these days is called boat crane. I am the boat crane and he is the engineer. The game consists of the engineer telling the boat crane where to put the boats. I lift specific couch pillows and then set them down in designated spots about two feet from where they were.
This is tediously boring. I try to make it more interesting, but my son is never amused by my ad-libbing. Sometimes the boat crane will have mechanical issues and need oil (coffee) to be fixed, or other times the boat crane slips and a bunch of boats all fall onto the engineer’s head.
“NO MOM! You’re doing it wrong. Now pick up those boats.”
I’m sure part of the fun of make-believe is being able to boss your un-fun mother around: being able to have the roles reversed for awhile, but I feel like I am working with an egomaniacal writer/actor/director who won’t let me bring anything to the table. I gotta make this boat crane my own, man.
I tried explaining to my boys that the first rule of improv is: always say yes to what your improv partner is bringing to the scene. We will be in the middle of a school of sharks (played by Legos) and I will pick up a certain shark and wrestle it, when one of my kids will say, “No, Mom. That’s not a shark. That’s a wrench.”
“Aghhhhh. I quit. This is no fun. I’m going to go wash dishes,” I pout and kick the stupid wrench shark.
Why can’t I just go with it?
Because there are always consequences to just having fun. Whether it is time wasted, getting injured, or bad habits that will generalize into the most annoying routines ever, there are always consequences.
For example every night the boys and I walk the dog. They ride on their tricycles and the dog and I walk behind them. Every couple of feet they will stop their bikes and ask me to sing, “I’m going to pass you. I’m going to pass you,” while I run past them.
As soon as I pass, they race up behind me, singing, “You can’t pass me!” And always, always, without fail in the chaos of two trikes, a pulling dog and me, one of them will accidentally slam their pedals into the back of my ankles.
It hurts sooooooooooo bad.
I have anxiety the whole walk about all the skin getting torn off my heels. I try to keep them in front of me at all times like they are two drunk drivers. I jump into the grass anytime they get near.
“KEEP MOVING!” I scream now anytime they stop and try to get me to pass.
No fun task goes unpunished. Want to make bath time fun one night, as a special treat? Blow bubbles for them while they bathe and then plan on being harassed to do it again every night for the next five years.
Or want to make getting dressed fun by putting their pants on your head? “Oh, look how funny mommy is with your pants on her head.” Then for the next 12 months every time you turn your back your youngest is naked again and trying to sneak his pants onto your head.
I don’t want to have any fun. I don’t want to make this chore more enjoyable and therefore longer.
I know I should. I should enjoy this time with them when they still want to be with me and play with me. I should relish that they are enjoying the simple things in life.
But I just want to get it done!
Why? Where am I going so fast? Race, race, race so they can go to bed and I can have my wine? (YES!)
I wanted to do this, be with them, raise them. It was important to me. I don’t want to think I spent this precious time telling them to hurry up and get moving.
Do they micromanage in play because that is what it feels like to be my kid: tediously boring and no fun?
Maybe I need to back off a little and let them do things the way they want to. Let them make the chore their own.
But if they got to do everything at their pace, I would have to wake up at 4 a.m. to get out of the house by 8:55 p.m. (and never get my wine).
So, “KEEP MOVING!”
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