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Clap, clap, clap

During an afternoon with a few girlfriends, one  asked me to help her load pictures from her camera onto her computer.

I said, “Don’t you have three kids at home who can upload, download, share and/or tag anything faster than you can say the word help?” “They have no patience for me,” she responded. Another girlfriend said, “They only want to show me something once.” A third said, “They are always putting me off. Too busy.”

Seriously, I thought. No patience? They’re too busy?

I’m wondering how these kids would have responded if their mothers had the same impatience when it was time for potty training. Can you imagine  if we rolled our eyes and said, “Really? Again?” as they cried because they needed a diaper change.

When it was time to teach them to ride a bike without training wheels, how about if we said, “Are you kidding me? Didn’t I just show you this yesterday? Don’t you have a friend you can ask?”

I’m sure you fondly remember making yourself available to teach them how to throw a baseball, a football, and a Frisbee; to ice skate, swing a racquet or a golf club; do a cartwheel and a forward roll. Just imagine their faces if we had said, “Does it have to be done right now?”

The list goes on and on of what we did with patience and smiles. We spent weeks explaining how to tie one’s shoelaces, sip from a cup and then when these feats were finally accomplished, we clapped like they had won the Pulitzer. “You put your own socks on?! You pulled your pajama pants up?! YAY!” Clap, clap, clap! I clapped so much I had calluses on my palms.

I can’t remember ever once rolling my eyes at my kids, can you?

I didn’t think so.

A friend had the best retort when her son complained about helping her with her iPod. “Look, she said, “it took me months to potty train you. Sit down and show me this.”

Right on, girlfriend.

I admit, technology issues do need to be explained a few times before I understand enough to be proficient. But once I have it down, I’m good at remembering how to do it. And sometimes, after getting impatient waiting to be shown how to do it, I figure it out. Our kids must think that if they just ignore us, maybe we will figure it out on our own. Maybe it’s their way of showing us tough love?

Maybe we should have tried the tough love approach when they wanted us to teach them to parallel park.

But what a feeling when on my own I do figure it out.

“Hah!” I want to shout. “I did it! I did it!”

Who needs those uber-busy, hyper-connected, impatient and oh, so brilliant, incredibly fast-texting children anyway?

After realizing nobody was coming home from college or driving 900 miles from Michigan to show me how to make an online photo album, I researched how to do it, did a few trial-and-error uploads to my computer, Photoshopped all the photos so that nobody looked better than me, got rid of red-eye people, and I even added music! I cropped photos, made an album cover and allowed people to post and share comments. Then I sent all the photos out electronically for printing to Snapfish.

All on my own, thank you very much.

As I hit SEND, I secretly wait for someone to clap, to say YAY, to give me a prize, a ribbon, a trophy, anything.

So I called my mother.

And she clapped.

(Thank you, DL, for the inspiration, and for my Mom who always clapped the loudest.)

— Tracy Buckner

Tracy Buckner writes for The Observer Tribune of Chester, N.J., and blogs for the New Jersey Hills family of newspapers, which serve Madison, Chatham and Chester, N.J. She enjoys writing about the slow decline and vows to go down kicking and screaming. You can read more of her musings on her blog: “Aging, Kids, Family and Why We Self-Medicate.”

Reflections of Erma