She quit today. Yanked her helmet off her head in the midst of tears and plopped her butt right down on the sidewalk, adamantly refusing to go anywhere at all, much less do it on the scooter that just catapulted her face-first into the concrete.
And I let her. I let her quit. No motivational pep talk, no bribes, no half hidden sigh of disappointment. I picked up the scooter, helmet, her. Squeezed her, brushed off her knees set her down gently on her feet, took her hand and walked the remaining 5 blocks home to the soundtrack of tears and that little voice crying “I don’t want to ride that again.”
But, yesterday, she didn’t. She didn’t quit at all. In fact, she made it all the way to the top of Cowles mountain (a solid 1.5 miles of rocky, steep terrain) solely by the light of her headlamp and her own two feet, just so she could howl at that Super Wolf moon and insist it was full of real blood. All to the soundtrack of, “I got this mom. Mom, I got this.”
And I was caught in a bit of a parenting trap when opposing motivations hit me square in the face from this little soul within a 24hr period. And I wasn’t sure what to say. Because, parenting is tricky. What could be important in one situation could be precisely the worst in another. Because, I have a thing with quitting. A stubborn, steaming, ‘totally not ok with quitting’ type of thing. I prone to making a bigger deal out of it than it needs to be because quitting agitates me that much. But, in that span of reveling in her determination and accomplishment one day and being thwarted by her lack of it the next, I was caught off guard. Being caught off guard allowed me just to feel with her.
And I know how it feels. Some days I quit. I am super strong and confident and ‘I got this' so many days in a row and then the ‘I don’t got this’ shows up because some days our scraped knees just hurt too much for us to get back on the scooter. In that moment, more important than any lecture about not quitting was the fact that I just let her know the truth of that reality. That things hurt. That it’s ok to put it down and walk away. One ‘quit’ doesn’t make her a quitter. And in an instant I realized that I was shaping her in my every tiny reaction. And in that same moment I realized that how I wanted to shape her was more important than wanting her to get back on her scooter. I could only squeak out, “I know, Babe. I know.” And I came to grips with something in myself.
We are obsessed with a culture that says don’t stop, never quit, and on and on and on and we are missing out on the lesson learned from quitting.
I want to value and boost up and emphasize all the times when she climbs the mountain, when she does something amazing, when her motivation exceeds her tiny body. And may that be the driving force of how I parent. May the highs of those encouraged experiences boost up any of the lows of the other ones. May those moments of sheer accomplishment inform the next chance to push on and succeed far more than any parenting pep talk.
May the moments that take our breath away and the ones that make us cry, teach each other.