Henry Ford was wrong: sometimes when you think can’t…you can

[Tweet “HOUSE GUEST: Kristen Mae aka Abandoning Pretense is sharing her work with Housewife Plus!! *go ahead and be jealous*”]


I just had to pinch myself to make sure this is real! I have a delightful treat for you this week; the marvelous Kristen Mae aka Abandoning Pretense is chilling out on my blog as this weeks House Guest!

If you are just tuning in, the House Guest series introduces emerging and established voices in the mom blogger world to the Housewife Plus audience. The writers featured here share their stories about parenting, marriage, and life in general. They are sometimes serious, other times funny, but always real.


By Kristen Mae

“Whether you think you can or think you can’t, either way, you’re right.” – Henry Ford

Sometimes it’s a bit of a battle to get Lucas to focus during violin practice. Like any other seven-year-old, he’d rather play video games, watch TV, or run outside, or… well, pretty much anything other than practice the violin. He groans in agony, crumples to the floor, and tilts his eyes heavenward in supplication. WHY, God? WHYYYYYYY?!?!…

But hey – he begged to play violin. I am a violinist myself; I have a master’s degree. When I would finish my own practicing, Lucas would pick up my violin and try to play. He would watch me longingly. And when he first said he wanted to learn (after I did several back-flips across the family room—this’ll probably cure his ADHD, right?), I told him it would be a commitment, and that once the violin was purchased, he was in it for the long haul. No negotiation, no quitting.

But sometimes when Lucas is having a crazy day and is having trouble focusing on his violin assignment, he’ll tell me he “can’t.” So I’ll sit with him and coach him and yell at him until he accomplishes something. Sometimes there are tears (His? Mine? Both?), but I’ll be damned if I am just going to set a timer for fifteen minutes and let him noodle around doing a deformed version of Irish step-dancing while his violin dangles silently from his hands. I won’t accept it! In those fifteen minutes, something violin-related needs to be learned.

It’s not even about the violin. It’s about getting Lucas to focus and stand by his commitment. It’s difficult, and sometimes I feel guilty about being so hard on him, but I am convinced that it’s the best thing for him in the long run. Why? Because even after our most gruesome sessions, wherein I have begged and pleaded and yelled and clapped time for forty-five minutes, he has learned something. I never stop pestering him until I see the clouds clear from his eyes and I know that he got it.

Then he grins that glorious grin – you know the one – the one that’s like the sun peaking over the horizon at dawn? It’s totally worth all the tears and frustration to see him experience that priceless moment of accomplishment.

One time I was telling another mom about how I force Lucas to keep going with violin until he “gets it” and she looked at me like I’d sprouted antlers and told me I was “super-strict.” Am I? He plays outside plenty. He watches TV and has his own tablet (with about a billion parental controls, but still). It’s not as if we sit around all day memorizing flashcards and learning Chinese (we’ll start Chinese when he’s eight).

Isn’t it important to make our kids push through the hard things, to show them they can, even when they think they can’t?

Although I hate the feeling of being judged by another mom, I know I’m guilty of the same thing, but in reverse: when I see parents give in to their kids when they “don’t feel like” doing something, it makes me want to claw my skin off. I can’t stand it. “You tripped while playing soccer? Aw, poor baby, sit on the sidelines with daddy.” “You’re bored with dance? Okay, fine, you can quit mid-way through the season.” “Adding the hundreds column too difficult? Here, the answer is 352; write it like this, honey.” “Having a rough day? Let’s not bother practicing piano today.” “You probably won’t accomplish anything when you’re upset anyway. You ‘can’t?’ Okay then; quit.”

What are we teaching our kids when we allow them to shirk their commitments? When we allow them to make excuses for themselves and permit them to give up?

I don’t want my kids to internalize the lesson that it’s okay to quit when something is hard. Tiger Mom, Helicopter Mom, Super-strict Mom… call me what you want. As long as my kid knows that whenever he thinks he can’t, he just needs to keep trying, never give up, no matter how frustrating or arduous the task.

If I have any say in the matter, engraved on my children’s subconscious will be a self-assurance which has been nurtured by years of tears followed by grins; a confident, quiet knowledge which has taken root at both an intuitive and an intellectual level: Sometimes, even when you think you can’t? You can

So there, Henry Ford.


BIO: When Kristen Mae isn’t running absurdly long distances, washing poop out of her dog’s butt-hair, or taming her two booger-machines, she’s tossing her expensive master’s of music performance degree out the window by feverishly attacking her “writing career.” She is a regular contributor at Nickmom.comBluntMoms.comMamapedia.com,Mamalode.com, and ScaryMommy.comHer writing has also been featured Huffington Post and HotMessMom.com. In addition to her blog, Kristen shares hilarious and heart-warming tidbits of her life on her Facebook pageGoogle+Twitter, and Pinterest.

Sarah Cottrell

About Sarah Cottrell

Maine-based writer Sarah Cottrell is the voice behind Housewife Plus at the Bangor Daily News and is a regular contributor to Disney’s Babble and Momtastic. She is a co-author in six books including I Still Just Want To Pee Alone from the New York Times Bestselling series. Sarah’s work has also been highlighted and featured by SELF Magazine, National Public Radio, Washington Post, and VICE Tonic.