Tuesday, October 09, 2007

A Cat by the Tail

Friday we made apple pancakes. The kids had the day off from school--the calendar says it's a superintendent's conference day, but the cynic in me sez the teachers wanted a four day weekend. So I took the days off, too. My son's started to take an interest in cooking, and was helping me. The big treat with pancakes (aside from eating them, of course) is The Flip, which I do sans spatula--just slide it off the far edge of the skillet and let it flop back in the pan. I had a cake already flipped and ready to go in the pan, and was letting him get the hang of flipping. He had done about three successful flips, but wanted to change his grip, so he grabbed the handle too close to the pan, and burned his finger.

It took a second of his screaming before I realized that he wasn't going to set the pan down on the stove (he had taken a step back to get a better angle for his flip), so I grabbed his arm and guided the pan back onto the stove, then took him over to the sink to run water on his finger. The whole time from burn to submerge was less than ten seconds, but there was a definite anger mixed in with the pain. And he was letting his anger run, not letting me help him with his finger, refusing to listen to me, and crying about the pain. So, I told my daughter about the time I burned my finger on molten glass, and how the numbing pain of ice was the only thing that kept the pain of the burn down, and finally, he went to the freezer.

On Saturday, while I was shopping, I got a call from my son. This was the first post-divorce-agreement weekend that EW had the kids. They were downtown. They had missed their bus, and it was going to be an hour before the next one arrived. He wanted me to come and get them and drive them back to her boyfriend's apartment. I told him I was at least fifteen minutes away from them, but I would do it.*

At the apartment, as he was walking towards the door, he started doing a goofy little dance-walk down the sidewalk, and turned to see if I was walking. Unfortunately, as he turned, his foot slipped off the edge of the sidewalk onto a little patch of mud, and he fell, twisting his ankle slightly. Again he screamed in pain and anger. His mom, who was standing right there, went to help him up, but she had a bunch of things in her hands, and needed to clear one of them in order to help him. It wasn't fast enough for his tastes, though, and he yelled "Isn't anyone going to help me?"

A pattern emerges.

As a parent, it's very difficult to know when helping becomes a hindrance. I don't want my kids to be hurt, but it happens. And a lot of life is learning how to deal with that hurt.

Getting hurt teaches us a lesson. It teaches us that the pan is hot. It shows us that we need to watch where we're going. Don't want to get burned? Then put it down carefully before you lose your grip. Don't want to fall? Then keep your eyes on where you're going. Or, if you want to clown, don't be surprised when you fall. Just deal with it, and get back up.

And I have to be strong enough to let him learn these lessons. And to let him know he's strong enough to learn them too.

When I picked up the kids, I told them I wouldn't do this again. If they're with their mom, then she's in charge of getting them from place to place. And another lesson: If you don't want to wait downtown for an hour, make sure you get there before the bus leaves.

The title of this post is a reference to a quote by Mark Twain, who took the gist of this diatribe, and condensed it down into a single sentence:
A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.

*There's another EW-related story here, but I'm not getting into that one right now.


Blogger terry said...

you are a wise pirate indeed...

2:08 AM  
Blogger Notsocranky Yankee said...

BP to the rescue once again!

When our boys fall while doing something stupid, they jump up and say "I'm okay!" Cranky and I give them the Did-you-think-I-was-going-to-ask?-You-were-doing-something-stupid-and-that's-what-happens look. Bob did that the other day and Cranky commented that Raymond started doing the same thing at that age.

6:36 AM  
Blogger Heidi the Hick said...

Yep, a hard lesson. A good one.

We could talk for hours about that one.

(I love that picture.)

11:12 AM  
Blogger AlwaysArousedGirl said...

A very good lesson but so hard for a parent to back off and let it sink in.

Teacher inservice days are mandated by law. They HAVE to have a certain number of them per year.

12:36 AM  
Blogger United We Lay said...

Trust me, teachers always get screwed on the extra day off deal. We DO go to professional development classes and we'd much rather have students because many of the classes are incredibly boring. The flip is difficult, so he should be proud of the attempt! The talking to the other kid thing is a great technique. Excellent post.

5:54 PM  
Blogger GC said...

I also think it's great he's not directing that anger inward.

11:52 AM  

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