There was a fairly obnoxious commercial a number of years back in which Michael Jordan and Mia Hamm battled it out on the basketball court, the soccer field and a host of other sporting situations all with the refrain "anything you can do I can do better" sung poorly over and over in the background. While I get that the commercial was a sporting goods commercial aimed at firing up the competitive in all of us, I feel like I am living a little piece of that song in my home.
For the last few days, Josh has been really excited about taking Zeke for a walk in the afternoons, a chore which he has, up until now, usually avoided at all costs, even choosing to wash windows or clean his room rather than go. So, I've been delighted at the idea of taking a walk in the ridiculous 60 degree weather we're having this January. And I remain delighted for roughly 2 minutes into our walk.
You see my son, now a strapping and independently minded 5 year old, has indicted in no uncertain terms that he is old enough and strong enough to hold the leash while we walk. This is, of course, debatable. Most of the time it's fine, but if Zeke sees any other living thing coming towards us, he bolts for it which, of course, causes the 5 year old drop the leash and me to perform a series of poorly executed antics that include making sure the child is safely off the road and then scrabbling across the concrete attempting to grab the runaway leash before I either (a) narrowly miss being hit by a car (b) watch Zeke pick a fight with a 140 pound Great Dane or (c) (and this is the most likely) fall down.
The thing is, I'm glad to watch him learn independence. I'm happy that he's gaining a sense of responsibility and that his reasoning for wanting to walk the dog is because it "makes Zeke happy." I in no way want to return to the first three years of his life during which he was permanently attached to my leg. Wanting to walk the dog is a good thing here.
BUT IT IS DRIVING ME CRAZY. Seriously, it takes all of my energy not to snatch the leash away at any given moment. Because even when he's holding on tight and the leash isn't zig-zagging across the road, he's holding it too slackly so the dog gets tangled up in it or he's pulling it too tightly and the dog is literally yanked off his feet while attempting to relieve himself. Bottom line: he's doing it wrong. GASP. Welcome folks, to one of my biggest pet peeves in the world.
I am deeply thankful, almost on a daily basis, that I finished college before the horrific advent of group learning. Yes, I had one or two group projects in college but those were in my anthropology classes. Of course there were group projects. Beyond that, I avoided the leadership school like the plague because my friends who were leadership majors were constantly working with people who didn't pull their weight or didn't show up for meetings or who jeopardized their grades. Group projects: where lazy people win and uptight people slowly and methodically lose their minds. I've often wondered if my preschool report card had a big old "F" next to "works well with others."
Don't get me wrong. At present, I do enjoy working with my colleagues but probably this is because they are all hardworking, passionate about what they do and they generally do things "right." But just like I cannot stand it when someone goes "in" the "out" door at Target, I cannot watch someone doing something wrong that I know I could do better.
Which leads us back to parenting. In five years, the sanctifying power of being responsible for the sustenance, survival and upbringing of a tiny human has caused me to deal with my selfishness, my fear, my unhealthy desire for too much personal space, my lack of trust and my need for control. So, let's add this to the list: the need to be right. Just as I freaked out in tap dance class when I was 6 years old and someone performed the wrong step or just as I identified with Claire this season on Modern Family when she literally spent all afternoon tracking down a security tape to prove she was right in an argument with her husband, I can barely handle my poor child innocently walking the dog. Because I can do it better and no amount of pleading on my part will cause that child to do it right. For now.
Tomorrow, I am sure that right around 4:30, when rest time and snack time are over and we are planning our pre-dinner activities, walking the dog will be first on the list. And he will run gleefully to the little bowl on the microwave to get the leash and ask me to get the "poo-poo bag" which I will happily do. We will put on our shoes and leash up the dog and start what will, quite possibly, be a painful walk for me. But maybe, just maybe, Zeke's legs won't get tangled so often this time. And maybe the day after that, he won't be choked by my son dragging him down the street. Probably, in a few months time, he won't even drop the leash anymore and my skinned knees will have time to heal.
The thing is, if I grab that leash from him he won't ever learn to do those things and I won't change. He'll be raised by a mom who is constantly taking things out of his hands unless he can perfectly do them. And he'll be the kind of kid who gets to college and realizes he never learned to write a check (if those still exist in 2025) or do his laundry or cook for himself. Shame on me if that happens.
So, like I said, at 4:30 tomorrow, we'll be walking Zeke. I'll have a smile on my face and, possibly, some knee pads on. And my child will have a huge grin on his face because he's doing something grown up and his mom is cheering him on.