Parenting without props
Posted on September 23rd, 2013
need help,” Peaches whispered.
The sound of her voice helped me to get a fix on her location amidst the pile of blankets and beanbags that had accumulated between her and me. I’d taken her with me to a restorative yoga class, an experience I once heard a friend call “a nap with props.”
It had been some time since I’d attended this particular class, however, and I’d forgotten that the configuration of the props changed fairly extensively with each pose. I’m directionally impaired so it is usually all I can do to arrange my bolster, blocks and blanket into whatever set-up the teacher has demonstrated before time’s up and I’m supposed to have assumed the pose.
Bringing Peaches to class with me meant that I was pushing her chair into place and layering it with all manner of cushioning before I moved on to my own—practically the exact same thing flight attendants have been telling me to do with my children for years in case a plane crash is imminent! (Only with a super-relaxing result, so, pretty much the exact opposite of that, really). Setting up Peaches’ props first meant that everyone else was well on their way to nirvana by the time I flopped back onto the floor, panting and wiggling my feet up onto the seat of a folding chair.
Not an hour before Peaches’ heavily-cushioned entreaty, my friend and I had been talking about the difficulties in knowing the right time and place to help our children. Sometimes it’s blessedly obvious. They’re feverish or they’re being bullied or they can’t quite remember seven times nine. These are the problems that almost seem to fix themselves in the simple act of identifying them. We dispense Tylenol, place a call to a teacher or spend an extra 10 minutes of review on multiplication tables.
We have done our jobs as parents! Just look at our measurable, tangible results!
But what to do when our children are older and decide that maybe they don’t need our help so much? This time they want to do it themselves—like getting dressed when they were four, only now they’re in their teens, and their ambitions are outsized; the consequences of failure, equally so.
Harder still, what is our responsibility to them when they don’t even know they need help?
As I crawled over to Peaches to move her arms and legs into place, arranging the props so that her legs folded over the bolster just so, I experienced a rush of gratitude so strong I was grateful, too, for already being on my knees next to her. I am thankful for these easy ones, the problems I can still fix for her, as thankful as I am for those occasions on which she understands that she can use a hand and will still say as much.∗