Piece of Cake

November 11, 2010 at 4:52 pm | Posted in Lollipop | 22 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Last night I made pancakes for dinner — delicious, healthy, and whole-wheat, with a dash of cinnamon. My kids will eat platefuls of them.

Since that right there is a miracle, I could end this post here. But there’s more.

As Lollipop was asking for her third or fifth or eighth pancake (I sort of lost track), she said, “Could you tear it in bites for me please, Mom?”

So I did. I didn’t think about it. I just did it. It registered that she had “asked nicely,” as we call it, so I complimented her on her manners. And then tore up her pancake in bite-sized pieces and went about the business of dinnertime — refilling cups, wiping syrup spills, shoving bites into my own mouth, pre-bussing empty plates, shooing away the dogs, and on and on.

Flash forward six or seven pancakes. She asked my husband the same thing. And he declined.

Some amusing banter ensued, with the four-year-old trying to coerce her father into tearing up her pancake, but he held fast. He explained that she was a big girl, she could eat her pancake like it was, or if she really wanted it in bites, she could tear it up herself. After a few last-resort tears, she did.

I watched quietly. And in between stuffing spoons of carrot in the baby’s cheek (and wiping them off his eyebrows), I got to thinking. Is that the role we all play — Mother the Nurturer, Father the Challenger?

Do I push my children? Do I encourage them to do things for themselves? Do I help them learn to be independent?

Not really. I tie their shoes. I make their beds. I fold their laundry. I pick their noses. (Come on, you know you do, too.) And I tear up their pancakes. I do it because I’ve always done it. I do it because, at one time, they needed me to.

When did that time pass? And why didn’t I notice?

Somehow, though, it all works itself out. Because, surely, by the time my kids are in college, they will have figured out how to pick their own noses. Right?

Are you a Nurturer or a Challenger? Is your partner the same or opposite? Do you think children need both in their lives?



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  1. Thanks for sharing that pancake recipe! I’ve been wanting to make some whole-wheat pancakes to freeze for busy mornings, and this will do the trick.

    I think I’m more of a Challenger when it comes to tasks I think my little one can complete himself, and a Nurturer when it comes to boo-boos. I can’t help but give lots of TLC for even minor injuries!

  2. My daughter used to love pancakes, blueberry especially and now like most things she will not touch them.

    I think you hit the nail on the head, that time passes and we don’t always notice that our children, who we spend all day every day with, are ready and able to do these things for themselves. My daughter will ask me to help her put her shoes on and I do it without thinking, whereas my husband when he is here will tell her to do it herself. Which she then does.

  3. Hmmmm, I nurture my husband too….

    I think we naturally fall into this role. Maybe it’s because even as they grow, we will always see our children as little babies??? I don’t know, but I already see myself doing this, and husband definitelt being the challenger.

  4. I am right there with you! Part of it is habit, part not being able to stand listening to them whine about it when it’s just easier to do it for them. My husband is DEFINITELY the challenger. And I think kids DO need a balance, and sometimes we need a wakeup call to stop doing and start letting them do for themselves…

    Great post.

    We love pancakes for dinner, too!

  5. Thats interesting, and I think you are right. I know when I was younger I could always count on my mom to help me do something, where as with my dad, I always wanted to be able to know how to do it, before coming to him. Of course now that Im older – I still feel the same way. A wonderful balance, for sure.

  6. My husband and I would have played the same roles as you and yours in this scenario. I wonder if, especially by dinner time, it’s easier for my husband – who’s been out of the house at work all day – to keep the expectations high, whereas I’ve been picking my battles for nine or ten hours. So while I definitely tend more toward Nurturer, I also think I have plenty of opportunities to play Challenger throughout the day.

  7. While I certainly am moat often the nurturer, I challenge often too. Enough that my husband is the go to guy if you want something done for you. Then again, I do more of the rough play too – like tossing kids in the air. We’re just weird.

  8. I relate to this post. My husband always thinks I am pampering my daughter, but much of it is so automatic. I’ve always done things for her and I am just accustomed to it. When my husband has the day off, things get dicey, when he encourages her to be independent and do things for herself. It is always preceded by an onslaught of big crocodile tears. But I think both of our roles are important, one to nurture and the other to challenge.

  9. I find J. and I play both roles, just for different tasks. I think my son should be able to dress himself by this time, and challenge him to do so all the time. J. finds it easier and faster to just put the pants and socks on him. I still pick up most of the toys, while J. makes the kids do the bulk of it. I agree with Kristen though, by the end of the day, I have little patience for challenging, so maybe that explains why my challenge task is at the beginning of the day.

  10. Nurturer. Without a doubt.
    And sometimes I realize that it’s probably not the best way (like when she climbs into bed wwith me after Hubs leaves for work), but then (to let myself off the hook) I think – this will pass. There will come a day when snuggling under the covers with mom is the LAST thing she wants to do. So why rush it?

    • Whenever I doubt myself there, this is exactly what I tell myself: One day, she won’t want these things from me anymore – so I do enjoy them while it lasts.

  11. I mostly nurture, but I’d like to challenge more. I guess though that I’ve never thought about it much, which is why I’m glad to have read this post.

    I did challenge on a few tasks, and persistence has paid off. My Bub buckles himself into the booster and puts on his own pajamas after bath time — both of these tasks make my life so much easier.

    I’m still cutting his chicken nuggets though. I think I’ll start challenging on that. Thanks for the idea!

  12. Nurturer mostly. I realize I have let the “nurturing” go too far when they expect me to pick up their crayons (that they threw) off the floor. My husband is definitely more of a challenger, but nurturing too.

  13. Nurturer, maybe to a fault. Like you, I never question. I just do it. Tie shoes, wipe noses, put toothpaste on the toothbrush and hand deliver it. Enabler, a little bit. Ouch.

  14. I think we are both compassionate challengers…and if one of us thinks the other is being too much of a challenger or a nurturer, we (uh hum) help the other “realize” it…

  15. Dads do things for their kids too long, too. It’s not a bad trait; to be the nurturer. And, fact is, you are quite busy every day with trying to raise the 3 of them and maintain a level of sanity. After a day away from them, he is able to fight a battle, if need be, over pancake tearing. That’s why two parents are usually a good fit for most families. One to fill in where the other one simply can’t.

    I am a former nurturer who now makes her kids make HER breakfast. Ahhh… the glamour of a mother with older children…

  16. We mix it up. I think I might expect more from the kids than Dan. He seems to help them with things that I think they can do themselves. But if you asked him, he might say I coddle them. He also takes them up to 9,500 feet on frigid weekend mornings and teaches them to hike and play in the woods and build fires. I’m more likely to call up a Mama friend to meet at the park. It’s all a good balance.

  17. I love pancakes for dinner.

    I think for the most part I fall to the Nurturer side. I think I’m harder with Wonderboy since he is older. Part of me doesn’t want to let it go because it means another chapter over. Still, I don’t want to be tying his shoes when he’s 12 either!

  18. Um, what does it mean if I put the pancakes (and the chicken and everything else) in front of them already cut up? Otherwise, one will shove an entire pancake in his mouth and chew with his mouth wide open and the other will refuse to eat at all.

    How about Mother the Practical?

  19. What a fascinating post. When my third child was born the oldest was not yet four. I did everything for those three kids all day long. At some point I realized that I was going crazy and I started encouraging the older two at ages three and two to do as many little things as they possibly could by themselves.

    Of course now, I have a three year old “baby” that I still do most things for because hey she’s the baby. Opps.

    Encouraging independence is important. But so is sanity. Your husband’s method may have encouraged your daughter but I personally would have avoided the tears, purely selfish, just for me. 🙂

  20. Good stuff. Pancakes and conversation. I’ll weigh in on both sides like so many. I was primarily a nurturer in the younger years. Then, as they grew, I began to see an entitlement growing. So…I was motivated to get them movin’.

    Teens who want their proverbial pancakes torn are really unattractive and work is the cure-all.

  21. I’m relieved to hear that other people have differing roles with their kids, because I also am the nurturer (enabler???) and my husband is the challenger. Or maybe we’re just good cop/bad cop, I don’t know. But we disagree a lot. I take some solace in the fact that each of us can be each child’s advocate, switching off, when the other parent is taking a harsh view. Maybe this is a type of balance in itself.

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