When the kids were small John and I always made a point to take a weekend once a year to get away—just the two of us.
Most of the time my mom would come stay with the kids for that night or two; something we greatly appreciated and something she and the kids enjoyed. But let’s face it—if you aren’t used to a busy, rambunctious house with four kids, and if you are one of those four kids and know your grandma isn’t as all-seeing as Mom is, well….
This particular time Emma was playing with a ball of Silly Putty. No big deal except she’d been told she could only play with it on the floor or at the table because she’d recently got it stuck in her hair and left it in a couple of other places she shouldn’t have.
Anyway…Emma was playing with said putty on the couch when my mom came into the room. Not wanting to be ‘caught in the act’, Emma hid the putty by sitting on it. She sat there long enough for it to adhere to the woven fibers of the couch cushion and leave a big oily stain.
Enter Bubba to the rescue! Zach, being the oldest of the four, took matters into his own hands by doing the only reasonable thing there was to do. He flipped the cushion over, the stain was no longer visible, and no one was the wiser.
Now let’s fast-forward a few days or weeks (I really don’t remember). For some reason I found out about what happened. I don’t remember if Emma or Zach came clean or if I flipped the cushion and then found out. Like I said, I don’t remember.
Right now you’re probably thinking that the point I want to make is either a) it’s never okay to like—that the truth always comes out OR b) something about the relationship between siblings watching out for each other. Wrong on both counts.
The point I want to make is that just like you can’t hide the fact that Silly Putty and couch cushions aren’t meant to be paired, there are things your children aren’t meant to be paired with either. Not every kid is meant to play sports or enjoy spending time in the woods hunting with Dad. Not every kid is meant to pursue a career in math or science. Not every kid is an outgoing people-person. And when you try to push them in those directions anyway, they stand out like an oily stain on a couch cushion. They may be doing what you’re pushing them to do, but they shouldn’t be. Instead, they need to be allowed to do what they do best—just like the putty needs to be picking up the ink on a comic strip instead of….
The couch was old and second-hand at that, and had a few other stains and snags before the ‘putty incident’, so in all actuality it wasn’t the end of the world and the cushion stayed flipped for a few more years before we got rid of the couch altogether. But that’s not how it works with your kids. So don’t try. Give them the opportunities and encouragement they need to shine instead of trying to make them fit in where they don’t belong or want to be.