I was at a restaurant last week having trouble deciding what to order. First world problems, right? The waitress had many tables and I could tell she was stressed. She came around and asked if I was ready. I told her no but I would be ready in just a few minutes. She yanked the menu out of my hand and told me that if I couldn’t make up my mind she would simply choose for me.
Just kidding. That never happened. Can you imagine? No civilized adult would dare treat another with such disrespect in such a blatant way. Let me rephrase.
I was standing in the doorway of my son’s closet today and he was having so much trouble deciding between the two shirts I was holding. I was running late which is no fault of his. I saw his eyeballs looking back and forth between the two shirts-obviously contemplating which one he preferred. I glanced at the time, sighed and impatiently yanked one of the shirts off of the hanger and put it on him.
That really did happen. Those two situations are eerily similar when you get right down to it. However, one of them doesn’t sound quite as crazy. But, why?
Please hear me when this elementary teacher tells you that I am all for discipline and consequences. I am a mom. Trust me when I say I know how it feels to tell the same human to get shoes 17 times to find them removing their socks and shooting them like tiny basketballs into the kitchen sink two minutes later. Kids have to learn the way the world works and that consequences come from each decision we make.
But sometimes? Sometimes, adults are real jerks simply because we are bigger. The past few days I have been constantly evaluating my parenting. I have been asking myself three questions:
- Am I being respectful?
- How would I feel if someone spoke to me like that?
- Am I expecting my child to behave like an adult?
It doesn’t apply in every situation. For example, yesterday, I heard the familiar sound of a wagon rolling down my driveway. You can imagine how not-respectful I sounded when I saw my almost-two year old squealing in excitement as he took his little red wagon on a joy-ride careening towards the road. He was standing up the whole ride down (impressive gross motor skills, right?) with his little hands clapping full of so much happiness. Because #boymom. I really thrive in a life where I can suffer a casual heart attack in the middle of my Thursday as my child NASCAR’s down the driveway in a contraption he has no intention of steering.
Children need stability (except sometimes in red wagons apparently they are fine without). They need love. They need structure. They need to learn to be good humans. They need to learn to be contributing members of society.
All of which can be taught without barking orders in impatience or if I am being honest with myself, laziness. I am not typing this from a spirit of education. I am typing this from a spirit that knows that it takes a village to raise a child. I am in the exact same boat, Mama. We are humans. We will never reach perfection. You are going to mess up. You are going to pop a brain vessel when you tell your child to get in their car seat but instead they accidentally heard you say to fight to the death to bring the noisiest toy in the entire house in the car with them. You are going to feel like you are having an out of body experience as you stand in the middle of the grocery story with a toddler who is currently having what my grandma calls a “come apart” because they cannot continue on in life without that specific box of cereal and you cringe as you hear your pre-offspring self roll over in the grave because YOU. WOULD. NEVER. That’s what we all say, right? Once again, we are humans. We WILL never reach perfection. We always have room to improve.
How would you feel if you were full of joy, simply exploring the world around you and taking it all in, but you could barely concentrate because someone was constantly telling you to hurry up?
How would you feel if you felt genuine fear regarding a situation no matter how seemingly ridiculous (shout out to my very real fear of humans dressed as Easter bunnies) but someone abruptly forced you into the situation anyway because “they didn’t have time for that right now”?
How would you feel if you had this one pair of shoes that were super uncomfortable but someone forced them on your foot anyway and wouldn’t take five seconds to try to understand why you didn’t want to wear them?
How would you feel if you could not understand a situation so you asked a question but the answer was always “because I said”?
I want my son to grow up knowing that I respected him. I took the time. I sat down on the grass and let him pick weeds on our walk instead of trying to get the most steps on my Fitbit. I listened to his feelings when he felt unsure of himself and we worked through it together rather than feel inconvenienced by my tiny person having big emotions. I took a second of my time to try my very best to understand where he is coming from instead of assuming his actual goal in life is to drive me insane. I stopped for half a second and realized he wasn’t asking ‘why?’ to annoy me. He was asking because he genuinely wanted to know. Related: sometimes if children don’t like their shoes it might be because you don’t know about feet growth spurts and you could be shoving his foot into a shoe two sizes to small. That can happen sometimes to people I may or may not know…
Those three questions have changed my parenting.
In most cases, they do not change the way I discipline or handle consequences. In almost all cases, it changes my tone. It expands my patience. It makes me slow down and spend more time with my child. That’s an area I feel we can all improve on.
They are such little humans trying to maneuver through such a vast, complicated and broken world.
They need all the kindness and respect they can get.
Let it start with you.
I have attached a picture of my actual worst nightmare for your viewing pleasure. Enjoy, and mom on!