“Boy, You’re Gonna at Least Try!”


Ursa Major is currently going through this funky stage where he has decided that he won’t take any risks. If he isn’t confident that he can do it perfectly (whatever “perfectly” is in his mind) the first time, he isn’t going to do it at all. He says, “But I don’t know how to do it, Mommy.”

And that can go for anything: “But I don’t know how to go potty, Mommy.” “But I don’t know how to take off my shoes, Mommy.” “But I don’t know how to go get it, Mommy.”

Now before you jump all over me, hear me out. I know that I have perfectionist tendencies. “Perfectionist” has been used to describe me on more than one occasion, though I think that my defense lawyers would argue that “pefectionist” is a strong word with many negative connotations that don’t necessarily apply to me and my behaviors. Indeed, I’m pretty sure that my attorneys would use more positive words like, um… [insert lawyer words that make me look good here.] Besides, “perfectionism” is only wrong when you look all huffy and out-of-sorts after you’ve achieved what you’re after… if you do it and you make it look effortless at the end, what’s the harm? What’s the harm, I ask you!??

Anyway… I really do try to give both of the boys to take risks without any sort of negative consequence. As a former teacher, I’m really mindful of stimulating benefits of failure. Especially at this age, every experience is a lesson in experimentation and figuring out what works and what doesn’t. Especially in play, where I really try not to control anything. The boys direct it and, if I’m included, I follow their lead.

That isn’t to say that I don’t show the boys when I’m frustrated. The bulk of my frustration comes when I give a direction and they blatantly don’t follow it, or if I give a direction and they sorta half- ass it and I can tell. Or when they flat out just don’t even attempt to do it. I’m happy to forgive and keep working and keep up my patience, but when the boys just sorta cross their arms and throw themselves backwards instead of making an attempt, I can’t keep my frustration to myself.

I guess this is a long-winded way of saying: I don’t know if Ursa Major is getting this from me or if this is just how his personality is or if this is natural 3-year-old behavior or 1st-born behavior. I also don’t know how to break the cycle we’re in:

  • Step one: Mama gives Ursa Major a task to perform.
  • Step two: Ursa Major makes a very weak attempt to perform the task or straight up doesn’t try to perform the task.
  • Step three: Mama, showing frustration, tries to give the task in small steps or even do the task with Ursa Major.
  • Step four: Ursa Major starts to cry and walk away or beg Mama to do it for him (or all of the above).
  • Step five: Mama digs in, tells Ursa Major that the whole world stops until he at least tries.
  • Step six (after several minutes of step four and five on repeat): Ursa Major tries and succeeds. Ursa Major is super happy and offers lots of hugs and kisses in celebration OR Ursa Major tries and fails, Mama patiently helps Ursa Major, he feels successful and offers lots of hugs and kisses in celebration.
  • Step seven: Mama explains to Ursa Major that steps one through five were totally unnecessary. Ursa Major agrees and goes off to play.
  • Rinse and repeat.

It’s not that I don’t get it. Learning new skills and expanding the skill horizon is hard work. Between the house and the stay-at-home-momness, I’ve had to push the boundaries of my knowledge and skillset almost every day. I think that my frustration with this stage comes with memories of my own inflexibility. I was good at a few very particular things and felt no urgency to expand that. Like with cooking: I was a savory homecook, hands down, and expansion into baking beyond boxed mixes wasn’t even a possibility. “Cooks don’t bake and bakers don’t cook well,” I would tell my husband, who begged and begged for banana bread and other treats. Now I’ve got a 50 pound bag of bread flour in my kitchen and something baking in my oven at least 3 times a week.

So I guess the question is: Do you need catalyst to expand your skill horizon or maturity?

and isn’t toddler/boyhood a constant catalyst? Isn’t he maturing a little more every day?

Or is my own perfectionism making me analyze his frustration inappropriately? In other words, is my perfectionism making me frustrated with his frustration?

Dang. I must be tired. Thinkin’ myself in circles over here!

Let’s switch gears:

In house news: My fantastic uncle, a carpenter and all-around handy-man is coming up from Maryland today and staying with us this week to help us with the bathtub conundrum. He’s pretty confident that he can come up with a solution and execute it in a week and… well…. I’m not fully sure that that is true. But we will see. Hopefully my blogging schedule won’t be too badly impacted, but if you see some mid-evening posts from me, you know why. We’re also having Ursa Major tested for his own lead levels this week. Fingers crossed it isn’t that bad. He eats more leafy veggies and meat than his brother does, and supposedly those things can keep lead levels down? That might just be folk-nonsense, but that’s what I’ve heard. Anyway, please keep your fingers crossed for us.

Oh, and get this: Father isn’t going to China after all? Allegedly?

It would seem that his work visa couldn’t be issued, and thus the offer to work was rescinded. That’s all the information I have, as I got this in  yet another email and, try as I might to call him yesterday, I haven’t actually spoken to him since the news broke. Don’t get too excited: He already said that if this doesn’t work, he’s just figure out another way to get there. This is just the thing he’s out to do now, so Lord knows what’s gonna happen. When I know more, I’ll share.

It’s the start of another crazy-go-nuts week around here. What else is new?

9 Comments Add yours

  1. Great news on the tub.

    Hey, maybe the delay with Dad is just enuf time to say,”I get why you have to go, but I will miss you.” That’s really all there is in’it? Perhaps that will get your point across plus give him something heavy to stick in his carry-on 😉

    Either way, I predict good things. And I’m excited! New (ish) tub!

    With regard to the kid-raising stuff, mind you I’m no expert; but are you gettin’ played? DIY=doable, not exciting. MomIY= hugs and kisses, And task accomplished. 3T’s have hustle.

    I’ll offer what’s worked in my family for generations:
    “Suit yourself. If you don’t wanna do it, I won’t force ya; but life gets pretty tough without pants.”

    Good luck!

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      You are totally right about Father, but I admit that today is Sunday and I’ve been too chicken shit to do anything about it. Our family treats shit like this like, “don’t say anything. Just… no… just… don’t say anything.” It works. It keeps the peace.

      and makes us all batshit crazy.

      Lord. He says he’s gonna be at the beach all this week, so I won’t really be able to talk to him until he gets back. He says he’s going to “regroup” and come up with a “different way” to get there. So… it’s just not over. Stay tuned. It’ll get worse before it gets better, knowing him.

      1. Best of luck haha. I have the same family on Mom’s side. And best of luck to him. He sounds like he really wants this.

  2. Haha 🙂 This sounds familiar. “No mommy, I don’t want to [action]. You do it.”* How I wish my son’s motivation was fear of not doing it perfectly. His motivation is being lazy and wanting to be pampered as if he were his little sister. (Who can do [action] by herself. “No mommy. Make my SELF!”*)

    *Translated from German.

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      First of all, HEY!!! It’s been a while!! How have you been?

      Second: Yesss to all of this. And you are totally right, I think that’s what’s happening here. Major wants to remain a “baby” like Minor, yet Minor is ALL TOO HAPPY to try the big-boy stuff. I thought that if I could get Minor on the potty and get him to do some stuff (he pooped once) then maybe Major would get it in gear… no dice. It backfired. Major won’t go near it at all.

      So we’re going cold turkey starting this week. No diapers during the day. Just big-boy underroos. He needs to FEEL the wet motivation to start the big boyness! We’ll see if this works!

      1. I’ve been fine! I read your blog, but because I had stopped blogging I was not using wordpress, so commenting (from my mobile device) was too complicated. I tried once, but I think the comment got swallowed somewhere…

        Anyway, I wish you good luck with your cold turkey experiment. Don’t be frustrated if it doesn’t work, I wouldn’t expect it to work like that in most cases. But maybe it does and that would be great!

        I went through potty training with my son last year and no coaxing, demanding or anything I did, changed what he did… There actually was a 3 months long period of where he would pee in the toilet, but absolutely needed a diaper for the big thing. That was frustrating. He also never used the potty, it had to be the toilet.

  3. Ollie is in the EXACT SAME PHASE! “Mommy, I can’t do it. I can’t put my shorts on!” “Really? You put them on yesterday.” And then I convince him to just “try”, he does for 2 seconds and if it doesn’t go perfectly he says “NEVERMIND!” OMG!!! 4 going on 14!

    1. K.C. Wise says:

      Ain’t it the truth? I’m sorry that you are going through it too, but I’m relieved that I’m not the only one. This is a VERY annoying stage. In some ways, he’s so independent it’s scary, and then in other ways, he’s hyper needy. It drives me mad!!

      1. I think the jump from 4 to 5 will be a big one. This is just the beginning. The amount of things he’s going to learn to do this year is amazing. I’m clinging to the hope that all of those great adventures we’re about to have will out way this mini-teenager phase;)

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