Did you see the VW commercial during the super bowl? The one with the mini-Darth Vader ? I’ve linked to it below but to recap: Our little villain tries in vain to use his powers to control everything from a doll to his dog to his lunch before finally finding success (he thinks) in starting his father’s VW.
Here it is:
The commercial is a smart one and its ability – through shoulder shrugs and defeated poses – to convey the child’s disappointment in his seeming lack of ability and the shock when he believes he’s finally done it is incredible considering that we never see his face (he’s wearing the infamous Vader mask).
But there was another image in the commercial that stuck with me.
Do you remember the part where he tries to move the lunch plate? He has exerted about 2 seconds of effort when his mother, in one small maneuver, crushes him.
He is exerting all his power to move it himself and she without putting down the jar slides it towards him.
I know it’s just a commercial but in that split second I saw myself. I’ve been that mom.
You see your child struggling to do something and instead of making them a winner in that moment you do what comes naturally when you’re busy and they’re acting crazy and you just can’t deal….you make it easy for them.
It’s something I noticed just this weekend as I traveled with the family to Carnaval in Quebec City.
There was not a 30 second pause between their continuous callings of my name. “Mom? Mom? Mommmmm? “ The reasons varied.
“Where’s my pencil?”
“Where are my headphones?”
“Have you seen my book?”
It was an 8- hour train ride from Toronto to Quebec City and except for brief moments of this:
the needy questions continued for the whole ride.
“Can I have a drink?”
“Can I move my chair back?”
“Can I have a candy?”
When they weren’t asking for things they were responding to my commands.
“Keep your feet in! Pick up your toy! Inside Voice!”
And it’s only when I got home Sunday night, exhausted, and saw the commercial again that it dawned on me.
With every command, every attempt to control their behaviour I was mindlessly pushing “that sandwich” towards them. l am raising kids who have become so accustomed to me making it easier for them – traveling with their snacks, carrying their books, having Kleenex in my pocket, struggling to have the answer for every question, an agenda for every need – that they’ve realized there isn’t much left to do.
I’m still treating them like their babies and they’re not.
And every time I do that I take away a little bit of their power.
That was never my intention of course; I just wanted to help.
This week I’m “helping” less.
We’ve had a talk about responsibilities and I’m going to try to give them room to test it out even if I suspect it may result in failure, even if I know it would be so much faster if I did it myself.
This week I going to let them use their force … even if it kills me.