This post is an excerpt from an article I wrote for my school's newsletter.
Our school provides wheat crackers and milk everyday (along with water and an additional item) for the children's snack. The staff takes turns being "The Cracker Shopper".
The first year I worked at the school and my rotation came around I closely watched the pantry supply, taking into consideration when the best time would be to shop. I still had a son at home that was very involved in varying activities as well as the community work that I myself was doing, so timing was everything. Because there is only one grocery chain that carries the crackers I carefully figured that destination in my errand loop.
One morning as I was preparing the snack, shortly after I had mentally made my date for the "shopping excursion", I was surprised and confused to see the pantry shelves already stocked with crackers. Many thoughts crossed my mind as I wondered: if it was not my month to shop after all, had the cracker fairy come overnight or had I in my pre-Alzheimer's state already done it and forgotten? Those with more wisdom and years at the school suggested that someone had done it just to be helpful and nice. Adding, that someone may have thought I had forgotten. (Had I already started my absent-minded reputation?)
Trying to make myself feel better, that is what I told myself, but the truth was I still had on my goody-two-shoes-has-it-perfectly-all-together facade, trying to impress my new coworkers, so my "condition" was still under wraps. But something happened to me that day that has stayed with me.
I became aware that I felt as though someone had not trusted in my ability to accomplish the task given me. That brought up a couple of things for me. It made me question my own ability and the thought-out decisions I had carefully made. It left me wondering if I had unknowingly done something wrong.
When I determined I hadn't, it made me resentful in a way. I knew what was going on, and I had a plan. I could and would rise to the occasion. There would not be a shortage of crackers, but it appeared that because it was not the way someone else would have done it, it wasn't the "correct" way.
The sensitive, vulnerable side of me wanted to throw my hands up crying, "Then maybe you should just do it." The defensive, ego-wounded side of me wanted to throw something and say, "Then you just do it!"
As uncomfortable as it was, it made me think about times I had unknowingly sent that
message to my own children by "correcting" what they did, or questioning their 'technique'. Since I am older and have more experience I must know the best way. I left no room for them to use their reasoning abilities, their creativity, or their opportunity to maybe learn from failure. (It would have been uncomfortable and inconvenient for someone to have had to make a cracker run for me had I really forgotten, but I guarantee it would never happen again after that).
How often had I sent the message to my children that I did not trust their judgment? If this is what they were repeatedly hearing from me, how could I expect them to trust themselves; their own judgment? What would happen if and when I was not around to correct or worse, "think for them"? Had I unintentionally discouraged them from being confident, self-accepting and willing to weigh out and try new things?
To some degree I am sure I did, being the inexperienced parent that I was. But it is never too late to learn and to change ways. (Do you ever notice how the patterns/behaviors you have with your children often overflow into other relationships as well?) Everyone can benefit from change, even adults.
Be not dismayed. This is not to provide guilt (although I can if you really want), it is to hopefully help you realize some changes that can be made sooner rather than later. I know (after numerous therapy sessions) that that accommodating shopper way back when was truly trying to be helpful (as I hope my children will someday realize too). And she was in more ways than one. For that I will always be grateful!