Confession of a Taskmaster

My 4 yr old caught me with a gut shot tonight. We’ve been doing homework…yes, homework. He’s in the head start (pre-k) program and doing very well. But, the other night I was pushing him pretty hard on his work. There’s something in me that drives me to do things “right” to a fault. He was writing the letter “P” on the kindergarten ruled paper (I don’t know the official name of the paper). I was trying to help him identify which line to start on when he finally tells me he can’t see the lines. At first I’m thinking eye exams. This could be an issue.
“Why not?” I probe.
“Because the water.” he responds.
Uh oh, “what water?”
“The tears in my eyes.” he says sternly.
“Oh buddy, why do you have tears?” I ask, suddenly very much aware of how hard I had been pushing him.
“Because I’m frustrated because I don’t know how to do this.” His little face was already telling me more than his words ever would.
Whoa, Dad, backpedal…this kid really wants me to be proud of him. I explained that part of me that’s driven to do a thing right as best I could to a 4 yr old, and hopefully made him understand that that is on me and not him. I backed off a lot and we finished off much more gingerly. That’s really been resting heavy on my heart for a few days. That was my failure. Not his.
Tonight went much better. I had him take a break when he got frustrated, and at one point, I actually stepped out to keep from pushing him. I simply told him he was doing fine, and I needed to get out of his way.
When putting him to bed tonight, I wanted to reassure him. So, I told him there were three things I wanted him to know: 1. That I love him, 2. He is smart, and 3. I am proud of him. Then he hit me with it.
He told me he was afraid I wouldn’t be his dad. I asked him what he meant. He said sometimes he didn’t want to go to sleep because he was afraid I wouldn’t be his dad and I would tell him I didn’t know who he is. I can only imagine this is some dream he’s had. Even so, hearing him say it hurts me in ways I can’t fully describe. I explained to him, between snotting and sniveling, that when we talked about the adoption and he said that he wanted to be my forever son, that it wasn’t just his decision. I wanted to be his forever dad, too. I’m not going anywhere. Ever.
Then he told me the story about how bad he wanted to be my kid (his wording) and how he wanted to be adopted so he could love me “so much.”
There’s a selfish part of me that takes a special pride and joy in earning that from him. But, getting to this point has come with a heavy warning about letting my beloved son make mistakes. Sometimes, I think, it is more important that he knows I have his back than it is to know that I can teach him how to do things the “right” way.

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