As a single mom, it’s really hard to get one-on-one time with each kid. But I recognize, especially as they get older, that they crave that individual time with me. I do my best to carve out a few minutes here and there to shower them with my undivided attention. A lot of times, those secretive and tell-all conversations happen during bedtime snuggles.
But they also happen during my new favorite mother and son tradition: Donut Days. For 12 years, my kids have gone off to school without me in the morning. But removing myself from the classroom this year afforded me the opportunity to physically drop them off at school myself. Every once in a while, Avery will hop on the bus and Christian and I will venture off in search of Honey Dew, on a quest to find sprinkle donuts the size of our heads.
One morning, after securing our morning treats, we were driving toward the school drop-off line when I happened to glance over at Christian. There are mundane and simple tasks I often overlook as my children complete them. But for some reason, I saw him eating this donut. And I couldn’t help but laugh out loud as I watched the peculiar way in which he consumed his breakfast.
Most people eat a donut by holding it sideways and raising it to their mouth, taking a scrumptious bite off the end.
Not my kid. Nope. I watched, somewhat horrified, somewhat proud of his ingenuity, as that boy ate that donut downward. Holding it in his hand, careful not to drop it, he steadied it as he proceeded to vacuum up all the sprinkles and every last bit of chocolate frosting from above.
“What are you doing?” I questioned, a pensive and incredulous look on my face. I’ve never been one to hide my emotions and this occasion was no different. My face screamed judgment.
“Eating my donut,” he giggled, already feeling that sugar-high.
Before thinking, I began to argue with him. “That’s not how you do it. You’re supposed to do it like this,” I said, modeling the correct behavior for him.
He looked at me and without hesitation fired back “No, I like doing it my way.”
I stopped as abruptly as I’d begun. Who says, Nicole? Who says your way is right and his is wrong?
Shame stung my cheeks as I realized my blunder. It wasn't wrong. It wasn't bad. It was just different. And that's OK.
It’s not my job to make him fit the constructs of a world he’s been put in. It’s not my job to make him conform to the same way of thinking everyone else subscribes to.
In fact, if I’ve done my job correctly, he’ll question the way things are done. He’ll come at problems with a critical lens and a fresh perspective. He won’t be afraid to shake things up or do it differently. He’ll understand that just because something’s always been done a certain way, doesn’t make it the best way or the right way or the only way. And he’ll be strong enough to stand up to those who tell him he doesn’t fit in because he won’t conform to a particular way of thinking.
As a parent, I get lost in all that I have to teach them before they leave me - all the ways of the world they need to be savvy to and comprehend before they try to make their mark on it. But I think that overwhelming pressure to prepare them can cloud my thinking and hold me, and them, hostage. I forget that the world I was raised in, is not their world. This world has new obstacles and challenges that require unique skills and perspectives and strengths and talents.
Forcing them to perform a task using an old and outdated manual, even something as simple and innocuous as eating a donut, prevents me from letting them do it their way. It hinders their creativity and intelligence and places them in a very small, suffocating box. This world has enough copycats, enough AI, enough robots thinking for us. I don’t need to be another proponent of stale thinking in his life. A fresh whiff of creativity won’t kill us.
And you know what? I kind of like the way he eats a donut. It’s inventive and practical and more authentic to my mission (I mean, is anyone really eating a sprinkle donut for anything but the sprinkles???). Here’s to eating donuts differently, and freeing our kids from the boxes we sometimes place them in.