What Vitamin Do You Want?

Today, Dylan raced.

I got an email from the social studies teacher, who said that Dylan’s “Z” meant that his assignment could still be turned in for credit.  Of course, that assignment needed to be completed.  So we insisted that Dylan complete the assignment before he raced this week.  The deal is, if he doesn’t turn it in as expected, he will not race on Sunday of next week.

He finished that paper so fast, you’d have thought he didn’t have the slowest processing speed on the planet.  And I bet it will be turned in, as expected, without another word from me.

It is hard, hard, hard being a parent.  It is hard having to discipline someone you love more than anyone in the world, someone whose happiness matters to you more than your own.  It’s agonizing, trying to make sure they grow up to be responsible, self-sufficient adults when you just want to hug them and tell them it’s all going to be all right, and give them everything they want, all the time.

Every morning, we take vitamins.  We take Flintstones chewables.  I take them, too, because they have plenty of supplemental nutrients for adults. And they remind me of my own childhood.  So in the morning, with their breakfast, I dole out the vitamins. Dylan takes his vitamins nearly two hours before Shane, because he leaves for school earlier.

When I dole out the vitamins for Shane, I shake out one for me, and one for him.  Shane and I both like the orange and red Flinststones vitamins, but we don’t like the purple ones so much.  So some days, I shake out an orange and a purple vitamin, and I offer him first choice.  I want him to be happy.

He used to always take the good vitamin, and leave me with the purple one.

Most days, I would just smile.  But one day, I got grumpy.  “Why,” I asked him, “do you always take the one I like best? Sometimes it’s a good idea to care about other people, too.”

“I do care about you,” Shane said, clearly perplexed.  It had never occurred to him that I would care about vitamin flavors.  Since then, sometimes he shakes out the vitamins and asks me, “Which one do you want, Mom?”

I wanted to teach him empathy, but I just felt bad about taking the good vitamin from my baby.

Most days now, because I worry about him worrying about me, I grab the purple one before he even sees it, so that he can have the orange or red one.  He never knows the difference.

And sometimes I leave him with the purple one.  Sometimes I work extra hard to shake out two reds.  Sometimes I shake out a dozen Freds and Dinos and Bam Bams, so we can both choose whatever we want.

And sometimes, we just take whatever we get.

As much as I want everyone to be happy all of the time, taking what we get – and being happy with what we have – is really what it’s all about.

They may as well learn this lesson now … if only I could learn it myself fast enough to teach it.

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