Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Creating New Rituals

It's safe to say that Jonas is a mama's boy. Being a stay-at-home mom during his first four years of school and being a leader for his first three years of Scouts, tends to lend itself to a parent and child having a close relationship. We have a hundred different rituals that neither of us really think about anymore, except when they don't happen.

Last night was one of those nights. Steve took Jonas to a new Cub Scout group to check it out. Jonas was so excited about it that he had a hard time focusing enough to get himself ready to go. We washed and ironed his uniform as soon as he finished his homework and he hung it up with great pride so it wouldn't get dirty while we ate dinner. (Before you get too impressed, you should know that our Scout neckers (bandanas) are the ONLY things I EVER iron.) His friend from school is a member of this Pack and he was looking forward to comparing merit badges with him and maybe getting to play dodge ball. Steve was equally happy to go because it means that he gets to be more involved and also that I am becoming less involved. I was a little torn about not going but I was looking forward to having a couple of hours to myself.

You can understand, then, why I was stunned when Jonas came home disappointed. He walked in the house ignoring Steve and with a huge pout on his face. When I asked him how the meeting went, he started crying and screetching something into the pillow on the couch that I'm pretty sure only dogs could hear. After some deep breathing and repetition, we figured out that he was upset because I'm not going to be one of his leaders this year. Not only was I not at the meeting, but they didn't stop for a drink on the way home!

Poor Steve. Instead of a "Thanks Dad!!", he got a meltdown.

Jonas and I have always done Scouts together. Even though I wasn't his primary leader in Cubs, we spent one-on-one time together every week on the drive to and from the meetings. (Our old group was about a half hour drive from home. The new group is more like 5 minutes from home.) Most weeks, we stopped at Tim Horton's for a drink on the way home. We hardly talked at all during the meetings but those drives were non-stop conversation about about Scouts, school and life in general. The drinks? Well, I guess it's like when my Dad would take me for ice cream after hockey or baseball. It's an important part of the ritual too.

Once Jonas stopped crying and Steve stopped fuming, they apologized to each other, hugged and said I love you. Then Jonas went upstairs to get ready for bed and I got the chance to lay a little more groundwork. Perhaps I should have prepared them both a little better for this transition but I don't want to be THAT mom who tries to control everything.

As Jonas brushed his teeth, Steve and I talked about what I thought was going on. I agreed that Jonas's behaviour was unacceptable. I also reminded him that this is a big change for Jonas. It's easy for us to see all the good things about this change but, in Jonas's mind, there are significant negatives as well. We need to be sensitive to those things and try to help him through them. I told him what we did on meeting nights (i.e. the after meeting drinks) and suggested that he find some way to make this relatively short drive something that they both look forward to every week. What that is, I have no idea, but it's not up to me. This is going to be their ritual.

By then, Jonas was ready for bed so I went to snuggle with him so we could talk. He then pleaded with me again to be one of his leaders this year. He told me that he really missed me last night. I listened for a long time and, although my ego liked hearing that, it also showed me how visceral this change is for him. He said he thought that he and his dad would have had more fun. The fun he was talking about, seems to boil down to the after meeting drinks. 

I'm still a little stunned by how on earth can one small drink mean so much to the kid. I explained to Jonas that Steve and I do things differently, and that one way isn't better than the other. They're just different. Both ways can be great if he gives them a chance. I reminded him that Dad didn't even know about the drink thing and that it might have helped if Jonas had asked him instead of just getting upset about it. I also reminded him that I could be a leader again next year but that this year is Steve's turn. It can be something they both look foward to if they make the best of it.

Before we turned out the lights last night, I asked Jonas if he had any ideas about what he and his dad could do make meeting nights more special. Much like the year he played soccer and every week and he'd say "the freezies!" was his favourite part, or the time we went to the NASCAR Speed Park and his favourite part was the "video games", after several minutes of pondering, he said with a smile "We could stop at the donut store on the way home!"



1 comment:

  1. I played Little League from age 8 to 12. A total of 8 seasons. One of the big rituals was if you won a game? You went to the local pizza place with the team. You got to spend an extra two hours eating pizza having some soda and playing "Wall Ball" (A very uncivilized version of Hand Ball) with your teammates and other players from other teams. I missed plenty of homework over it, but my parents never said anything about it. They realized it was important.

    I totally get Jonas' train of thought. Been there. Done that. Anytime a kid gets to spend a little more time doing "stuff" after dark? They're thrilled. You have to remember Jonas is essentially....a tiny man. What man doesn't like going out to spend time with his friends and then going out for a drink afterwards? I know I do.