Calm breeds calm. Therapists have told me that it isn’t the parent’s fault when a child has a difficult temperament – just compare them to the easier child and there you have it. They’d both be hard if it were all my fault, but it really isn’t that simple. One is fine in most situations and the other is not. One is like me and the other is not. The past three weeks have been wonderful for both of my children and it is a direct result of how I have been. Yesterday morning Violet was being stand-offish and I stayed steady. My kids fought and I barely got involved. I kept making biscuits and doing other morning chores and eventually she came in, jumped into my arms, and said “I’m sorry mommy, I’m sorry.” I held her and we stood quietly for a few minutes nose-to-nose and all was well. If I had reacted negatively to her behavior we’d all be upset. I have been able to say, almost in a whisper, “stop yelling at me” instead of the almost comical “STOP YELLING AT ME!” of days gone by and it works. It truly does.
Last week I was peeking in the window during Violet’s ballet class. I saw her trying to get attention by parading around her double joints; I always make a big deal of it when she turns her elbow inside out. No one noticed or said anything, they were concentrating on other things. I saw the teacher’s assistant high five a spritely little girl over and over and I had to walk away. I knew how that was going to affect Violet and it was just too painful to watch. Minutes later she left class. She didn’t want to talk to me but said something wasn’t fair; some minor correction she was given had hurt her feelings. The teacher came out and convinced her to go back to class but she left again. Twice. The teacher came out each time and gently spoke to her; I really appreciate that she took the time to help a child who, from the outside, looked unapproachable. When we left, instead of chastising her for leaving a class we had paid good money for – something I would have done a month ago – I talked about how tired she must be. How hard it is to have a class so late in the day and how she wasn’t quite over her version of the flu that’s going around. How it will be better next week and what yummy snacks I’ll bring to give her more energy. A grandmother, who witnessed the whole ballet incident and my treatment of Violet’s small tantrum, was walking out with us as I was gently talking her off the ledge. She looked at me with disdain and told me I had better nip that behavior in the bud. Sorry dude, tough love decidedly does not work. I’ve tried it for the past seven years – been there, done that, as they say. Love and gentleness does, at least with my kids and I suspect it does with all.
I ran into someone I barely know yesterday and she told me that she had had a “mommy dearest” moment recently too. I assumed she had been reading my blog and was referring to my parenting skills. It horrified me that someone would think of me that way but I can see why; I do write a lot about what’s hard and what I do wrong. Sometimes I want to take this whole thing down, I feel embarrassed and exposed, but then I remember the handful of people I know who, like me, struggle with anger. They tell me that what I write helps them feel less alone and it makes them feel brave about admitting what’s going on in their lives so up it will stay. We all, or most of us, just want to do the right thing. We want to be proud of who we are as people and if we’re lucky enough to have little ones in our care we want to do right by them. That’s really what I want above all else; to raise my children to feel loved, confident, and happy.