I’m 38. She’s 5. She doesn’t have the cognitive reasoning level of development that I do. Yet my ego insists on testing this knowledge: On. The. Daily. My daughter and I were talking as I was making lunch today and she was getting increasingly frustrated with me because I wouldn’t let her finish her breakfast. Did I mention it was lunchtime? We got knee-deep into a verbal sparring match just going back and forth at each other in our own explanations of why we were each more “right” than the other. It wasn’t until I stopped, literally took a deep breath, and asked myself (1) what does she need from me in this moment and (2) which of us should have the maturity to stop this futile exercise, suck it up, and be the adult? Hmmm. Took me a minute but I got there. I stopped talking at her, and instead really listened. I realized she needed to feel heard, really heard (even if I didn’t understand her logic of why finishing her 3-hours-old bowl of leftover breakfast cereal was the healthier choice over just eating the lunch I was making). She also needed a hug from me, which always calms her down. After giving her those simple things, it was like we’d taken a pin to a balloon and instantly deflated it. It may not seem like a very big deal, but I could see in her eyes that sense of relief that we were in sync once again. That I was with her instead of against. She wiped her tears, skipped over to the table, and started eating her lunch, leaving the soggy cereal with it’s soured milk long-forgotten.
With all our awareness of what our children need, and the importance of stopping to ask those questions in moments of frustration, why do we allow it to sometimes get to meltdown level? Because our ego seeks to keep us “safe” by not rocking the boat, by following what we and each generation before us, movies and television characters, have all over time conditioned in us. No blame – we were each just doing as we had been taught to do, and so on: We are the parents and therefore we must be in control. At all times. No matter what. Release control and risk anarchy! I just knew I had logic on my side. I was the one being rational and I just had to convince her of my correctness. (Nevermind that having a child in the middle of a fit is less-than-ideal timing for a teaching moment.) I’m not talking about letting children run wild and figure things out for themselves. I was trying to control for the sake of control itself. So tonight I’m celebrating my mommy fail with a glass of wine and reflecting on the lesson I gained from that moment, and from her. I didn’t give in and change my mind, but I did stop and change my approach. Here’s to being aware and conscious to next time stop talking and start listening sooner. Salud. (I am the adult afterall, aren’t I?)
“Failure is only the opportunity to begin again, only this time more wisely.” -Henry Ford