Sometimes, in the midst of parenting, it’s easy to lose track of your kids. (Figuratively speaking, of course!)
My 7-year-old and I butt heads on the regular, never more so than when we’re navigating the everyday stresses of our daily routines.
Schedules and stress and exhaustion and frustration combine to make our relationship combustible.
Getting Detective Munch fed, dressed, and out the door in time to make the school bus every morning is an infuriating struggle all year long. It often ends with me breathlessly scolding him as we race down the street, desperate to catch the bus so he won’t be late for school.
By the time he gets on the bus, we’re both angry and frustrated, and then we don’t see each other again until the end of the day, at which time I’m forced to give him a bath and corral him for dinner and get him ready for bed.
By the time I tuck him in, we’re both angry and frustrated, and then we don’t see each other again until morning, and the cycle starts all over.
But in the summer, things slow down. There is always routine things aren’t as hectic, and without a bus to take him to camp, we have no choice but to ride the subway together.
A funny thing has happened on those rides: I’ve actually gotten to know my 7-year-old. And it turns out I like him a lot!
Instead of racing to the bus stop, we’ve been taking the train, which gives us a good half-hour to just hang out and talk, on the walk, at the station, on the subway itself, and at the coffee shop where we occasionally stop to grab a juice and coffee.
Sure, we mostly discuss Star Wars and Zelda (or superheroes and Mario Kart), but I don’t care what we talk about, it just matters that we talk, without the pressure of a deadline or the frustrations of bedtime.
The deadening repetition of domestic routine has a way of reducing you down to stereotypical roles of parent and child (or warden and prisoner), erasing your personalities as you go through the motions. That constant push and pull can rob you of the chance to get to know each other as individuals, with actual personalities and interesting perspectives.
You might be pleasantly surprised at what happens when you break the routine, stop barking orders, and start having conversations.
We all get frustrated with parenting, but these morning subway trips have taught me that sometimes that frustration is borne from circumstances more than anything else. We need to break out of the soul-crushing cycle and cut ourselves – and our kids – a little slack every once in a while. For everybody’s good.
That’s why my son and I are going to start skipping the bus and taking the subway a few times a month.