Do two balls count?

I can't juggle. I try. I get one ball going. I add in a second. I keep two in the air fairly well. Add a third? No dice. So, do two balls count? Can I really claim to juggle with just two?

Here's the thing - I don't think it does. And so, frankly, I'm an inept juggler. And that sort of sucks since so much of parenting is juggling. At least figuratively.

But figuratively speaking, sometimes I juggle in that context enough to 'get-by' and other times enough to even shine, but other times just barely by the skin of my teeth in such a way that I wonder if it counts. I feel like I'm there, tossing two parenting balls up in the air at one time and hoping I can claim it counts as juggling.

(Or perhaps the better analogy is balancing - but I can sort of survive the balance beam as long as we're not demanding fancy tricks and flips and so the whole "performance art vs parenting" thing gets lost a little.)

The other day when I wrote about Logan and his failure to listen, he happened to be in rather rare form. He had a cold coming on and that is never a recipe for an calm, well-behaved, low-maintenance Logan. His overall behavior made it even harder to relax and stick things in prospective. Obviously part of preschool is learning to listen and follow directions and so he's just getting it over with early. Right? ;)

We've talked at it, of it, around it a few times with him. In theory he gets the concept in the context of school. When I picked him up he was just so sad about it. From what I could piece together, what stuck out most for him was the playground -- he didn't want to come in and I think, although no one has come out and said it, he argued with the teacher about it. He hid behind his art paper when I picked him up and then as soon as he got to the corner of the building outside he broke down in tears. I was a little concerned that this would make him reluctant to go back, but nope, he was begging me to take him back within hours of being home. So I suppose he's over it.

The hardest thing, sometimes, for us is really remembering that he's still at the maturity level for three. He communicates very well. He's not only got a sizeable vocabulary, he can also readily identify his emotions/wants/needs and communicate that to us. He is very capable of telling us he's angry and why, for example, and typically does. But he's still three and so sometimes, he ends up in a torrent of preschooler outburst. When you're tired and frazzled to begin with, knowing he can talk it out sometimes clouds the fact that you also know he's still just barely out of that "baby" stage. There are times I can juggle those different balls -recognition of his verbality, his maturity, his rushing littlehormoness. And then there are times I can't.

But truly, the thing I struggle with the most is finding that balance between raising a child who can be respectful and follow direction and yet who can feel comfortable in asking questions and not just be a sheep. I want him grow to be secure enough in himself and his relationships with authority that he's able to push back in appropriate ways. Obviously at three I'm not talking about setting him up for a peaceful protest march or a letter writing campaign, but it is a decent time to start laying the groundwork.

There are moments on our challenging days where I wish he could just do what he's told and leave it at that. Then in a moment of clarity I realize that while that's easier for me, its not what's best for him. And then, when I think about it, I realize that its not what I want. I hate feeling like its a battle, yet I do want him to grow to analyze and not just accept. I do want him to take ownership and not just follow blindly. I do want him to think and not just move robotically. I want him to get to that point and I know, in some way, that it means I can't push him into complete submission now.

Yet its a series of balls I can't seem to juggle. I'm looking for some way to keep those conflicting balls up in the air -- the one where he can follow simple directions without ignoring and debating at every turn, yet where he learns to think for himself and make his own choices.

When I ask the question, "what is it that I truly want for my children's future?" I know the answer. I want them to be happy. I want them to be confident. I want them to be inspired to do whatever great thing dwells in their souls. I want them to be able to feel like they were given the tools they need to be emotionally healthy. I want them to be loaded with self-respect which I strongly believe leads directly into respect for others.

Then I put the pressure on myself to equip them with what they need to be/have all those things. And I know, deep down, that some of that equipping must start now. I'm just trying to figure out which set-of balls I need to learn to keep in the air to do so.

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