It had nothing to do with her, but I had experienced the afternoon prior to picking her up as unusually stressful. The wash machine flooded four rooms, and, when a friend didn’t stop to help, I let that throw my mood and schedule off. Did an okay job of not transferring it to her when I picked her up from school, but I was still on edge.
“Today is December 6, so you need to look for the number six. My recommendation is that you find a book with numbers in it and use that to figure out which one is the number six.” She was already tired after a long day at school, so it maybe was pushing her a bit, but, being the type who likes little challenges, she went with it.
Moments later, she came back with an Italian vocabulary book for children. We found the section on numbers, and she promptly asked which one it was. “I’m not going to tell you. You figure it out. Use your brain,” I said in a matter of fact manner. In a better space, I might have said, “Let’s figure this out together. We can do it!” Unfortunately, that vibe was sorely lacking, and I didn’t have much patience for her running her finger around the book guessing. “Come on, you know these. Don’t just guess! Start at the beginning. One, two…”
It took a long time, and I was no Mister Rogers. That’s the rub in parenting. Sometimes, you have such a great intent with an idea but then your way of being as you implement it sort of negates it. She squirmed about, looking visibly uncomfortable by my serious nature and the displeasure in my tone. I should have seen that as a sign that I needed to lighten up, but instead, I found it irritating. “No. You’re guessing. Stop that. Use your brain. Stand up straight and start over. One, two… come on.” She stuck with it and figured it out. Okay. High five.
As she happily munched the chocolate, I reviewed what we had done. “I didn’t just tell you the answer, did I?” She shook her head no. “You wouldn’t have learned anything that way. How did we do it? First you figured it out in a book using your counting and then you used the design as a map to find it on the advent calendar. You figured it out.”
Two points for not just handing her the answer and giving her another reference experience of creative problem-solving. Two points off for being a teacher whose way of being caused stress for her. At dinner, I asked her how she felt during our exchange. “Sad.” She usually uses that word to describe when she is off. “What can I do differently?” She said, “Be happy and fun.” Indeed.
The lesson for Daddy there is to just not try to be a teacher when I’m feeling off. It’s very important to me that she feels relaxed, happy, and enlivened by the learning process. Oh well. I guess I have to give myself a little bit of a break after a tough afternoon. I’ll keep nudging her to think for herself as I have since she was an infant, and I’ll commit to doing a better job of making sure I teach from a warm, accepting, encouraging place…