I bought B a new tooth brush. I put it in her bathroom, removed the old one, and went on with my day.
That evening, right around tooth-brushing time, there came a shriek from the bathroom.
"Where is my pink tooth brush? Whose is this red one? Where is mine?"
Followed by a five minute semi-heated discussion on the state of her pink toothbrush, the need for a new one and the strong resistance of a stubborn 6 year old.
Finally, I asked myself, "Is it really worth all of this nonsense?", took the toothbrush from the (thankfully) top of the trash can, cleaned it and gave it back to her.
Peace and clean teeth for all.
I left the new brush in the toothbrush basket, though, just in case.
About two weeks later, B found me, and told me proudly, "Mom, I was finally ready for my new toothbrush! I have been practicing with it, and I am ready to throw my pink one away."
Then she did.
She and I have talked about writing to a pen pal. The parents in one of my favorite facebook groups set up a pen pal list, and I encouraged her to participate.
"You could write to someone who is interested in the same things that you are. You could make a friend in another part of the country, or another country altogether!"
She declined. I though perhaps she didn't want to do the work of writing, or she didn't like it because it was my idea. Finally, she sighed and told me, "Mom. I am just not ready for a pen pal."
About a month later, without any assistance from me, she became pen pals with our next door neighbor, a very nice woman who loves kids. They have been writing what B calls "beautiful letters" to each other weekly. I asked her about it, and she shrugged nonchalantly and replied, "I was just ready."
She rides her bicycle with the training wheels on. We can tell that she is capable of riding independently. She doesn't feel quite equipped for that step yet. My husband took the trainers off, hoping to force the change...instead she refused to touch the bike for two months until I convinced him to put them back on. I am confident that she will follow her usual pattern. When she feels confident about it, she will do it, and do it well. Not on our time frame, but on hers. She'll probably take the training wheels off by herself, since she is already better with tools than I am, and I will join her for a bike ride and notice half way through the ride that they are gone. It's the way she is.
The unknown can be difficult for any kid. Waiting for your child to adapt to change, or try something new can be difficult for parents. The issue seems like no big deal, you can do this, why is this such a problem? Emotional overexcitability may exacerbate the situation, perhaps for the child and the parent.
So, what do you do? I am learning to be patient, and to remember that adapting to something new is a process, not a two-second flip of the switch. I plan ahead and move gradually with the toothbrush swap, out-grown clothes removal, and rearranging the house. I give verbal notice in advance when possible. The older two are getting better at revving up their adjustment speed, and understanding that sometimes, they just have to. It's uncomfortable and unfortunate, but occasionally, it just can't be helped. Life is unpredictable, after all.
I am listening when my children tell me that they are not ready, and trusting that they know themselves better than I do. When they feel emotionally and physically equipped for the task at hand, they will accomplish it fantastically, without my prompting or intervention. It's a difficult business to sit back and wait for it to happen. But, I've never seen a mama butterfly hovering over a chrysalis to make sure the caterpillar knows what it's doing, and does it at the right time. The caterpillar senses the right timing, and the result is phenomenal.
It's a beautiful thing to watch happen.
This blog post is part of the GHF July 2014 Blog Hop. Be sure to visit these other insightful bloggers' posts on Gifted Parenting!