This week was VBS week which I love. Every year I get anxious and stressed right before the week starts and I get incredibly nervous all week about making sure I know my script and everything goes according to plan. And every year, right before it starts and I am at the peak of my stress, I say something like "Next year, I am not going to sign up for this. It's too crazy." and every year after it's all over and the kids have gone home and the decorations are put away, I start thinking about next year's theme and how much fun it will be.
But this year was different. This year, I was not in charge of a station. This year I was a crew leader. This was Ben's first year of VBS. And I was his crew leader. I cannot begin to describe my excitement. I have looked forward to this week for months. I potty trained this kid with VBS in mind, knowing that he had to be potty trained if he wanted to participate. He also was just a teeny tiny bit shy of the age cut-off for registration. But strings were pulled and exceptions were made.
And this week was...well...awful. It was just awful. I almost want to start crying again as I write this because it was so stressful and I felt like such a terrible parent that I couldn't get my OWN child to behave in my group. Finally, today - on the last day, just forty-five minutes before the finale, I reached the end of my parenting rope and I called his dad to come and get him. I then spent the rest of the morning silently berating myself for not being more patient. For not sticking it out longer and trying harder with him so that he could've finished the week with his group.
Over a bottle (or maybe two) of wine, I shared my anxieties with my fellow moms who were also VBS volunteers and they each consoled me and validated my decision to send him home. They also assured me that they would NEVER be group leaders with their own children for this exact reason and that children always behave worse for their parents than they do for strangers. And one of them said to me "it might just not be his thing".
I've been turning that around in my head all evening. How do you know? How do you know what their "thing" is? We had a similarly distressing experience this year with T-ball. Again, I was so thrilled to take Ben to his first practice. I had talked to him about it repeatedly after we registered. We practiced in the backyard. He seemed really excited at his first practice. At his second one, he said "I don't want to play anymore".
Maybe it's his age. Maybe he's just not developmentally ready for activities that involve a lot of structure and following directions. His dad says he's an introvert. Which makes his extrovert mom extra-anxious. I start to obsess about nature vs. nurture and wonder how much of our skills and preferences are inherited from our DNA and how much can be shaped or learned. Neither my husband nor I are athletic. My husband is more likely to know the names of the aliens in the Cantina in Star Wars than the name of any player on a football or baseball team. This has always been fine with me. In fact, preferred by me. I grew up in a competitive family and was always more comfortable with my nose in a book than chasing a ball around the soccer field or (in my dad's case) the golf course.
But as a mom, I start to worry that my own lack of athleticism and my husband's lack of interest in a majority of social activities has combined to create these preferences in my son. I agonize over whether it's better to let him stay home in his shell or push him to do more and try more. I obsess about the coming year at school and whether he will respond well to structure and whether we will find something besides super heroes that are interesting to him. And then I remind myself that he's only three. I take a step back, a deep breath, and I give myself a break.