I always knew I would have failings as a mother somewhere. I also thought I would only see them when my children were grown. Today though, life was kind enough to show me one of those failings much, much earlier than expected. I am grateful. And I am very upset over it. I am also at a loss as to what to do about it.
My big girls dawdle. All the time. Well, not all of the time, but usually when it's important, they dawdle. In the morning getting ready for school, they often dawdle. And after school on the way to the car where I wait for them, they dawdle. I don't think I can begin to express the amount of frustration I feel over this.
After school, they are always - always - the last ones out. Without exception. When I question them about this, they have no rhyme or reason. They are simply slow to move. One of the teachers confirmed this to me at the last parent interview.
Yesterday after school, they waited for their older cousin as usual, and he didn't show up. He didn't show up because he was absent that day. Instead of walking to the car together, my girls went to the school office, because they didn't know what to do. I was in the car waiting, for 25 minutes, before I received a phone call from them. At this incident, I was keenly aware that my girls didn't seem to have the flexible thinking or problem solving abilities that I would expect of kids this age (6 and 7 yrs). Or maybe I had drilled into them so hard that they must wait for their older cousin and must not walk alone, that they thought they should not take the initiative. I don't know. Either way, the failure is mine.
Today, I waited in the car for over 30 minutes after the school bell for my girls to show up. This with my autistic son, and baby daughter (who was due a feed) in the car with me. I can see the back of the school gate from where I wait. When they finally showed, they dawdled. They walked so slowly, I thought I was going to scream with frustration. Instead I ate it up, as I must, and watched them make the slow journey from school gate to car.
About halfway accross, I saw them pause, throw down their bags, and go off to play on some of the circuit equipment set up along the track. I burst into tears. There were my girls, playing away, while I was waiting. I had already waited a long time, and there were no other children around now. They were alone there, just playing. I don't think I need to discuss the dangers of this situation, especially if I were not there watching for them.
I couldn't leave my son and baby in the car alone to walk down and get them. I didn't know what to do. So I beeped the horn. Long and loud. It made no difference. Sobbing, I got out of the car and locked it with the little ones in there. I walked a short distance down and stood waving my arms, hoping desperately that they would see me and hurry over. They saw. They didn't hurry.
By the time they got there, I just felt like I was going out of my mind. I loaded them up in the car, and drove the short distance to my mothers' house instead of home. This was unplanned. I brought all children inside, asked my mum to mind the little ones, then took the big ones upstairs and completely went beserk. I yelled until my voice was hoarse and my throat was sore. My girls just looked at me in shock.
I sent them downstairs and they went out to play - unruffled it seemed. But I don't know. I went into the kitchen where my own mum met me, and fell apart. I wept and wept. All in frustration.
I feel like such a failure. For so many reasons. The biggest being that I have obviously not taught my daughters enough independance. They still behave like small children. They have been babied. I know this probably sounds like denial, but I still can't see how I've managed to do this.
My mum pointed out that I have always babied them; each time they hurt themselves in the smallest way, she said, I made a fuss. And I kept looking after them the way you do for babies. She had never mentioned this before because I wasn't ready to hear it. I wish she had though. I used to detest whenever I saw other parents do this.... when their kids would scream blue murder over a tiny scratch. Not me, I thought; I won't spoil my kids that way! Well, mine may not scream blue murder, but somehow I've managed to do just that.
When they hurt themselves small, they always bring it to my attention, even if it's for small sympathy. And they cannot think flexibly for themselves. It seems they need constant direction to be able to move on. This is my fault, and my failure. Again, I'm still not sure how I managed to do this. But I have.
I am grateful that it has come to my attention now, despite the emotionally charged day I've had. But I'm at a loss as to what to do about it. How do I teach my daughters independance and flexible thinking, without putting them in danger? And if I can't teach my normal kids this skill, how on earth can I hope to teach this to my son?