Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Little Push

She did it again.



It was the end of a really great morning and both girls had a great time. When we stopped at the corner to say goodbye Ada pushed Sarah. This happened 3 weeks ago and I lamented to my friends about it - mostly about the fact that I was really angry with her and that actually scared me. This time, I was shocked, yes, but also really wanted to hang my head with my face buried in my hands. My mind was stuck on "Oh for fuck's sake" but I said something like, "No! No pushing! Why did you push her?" then scooped Sarah up and handed her to Kathi. I closed my eyes at Tom, shook my head from side to side ,muttered an apology and scurried to the car with Ada.

On the way, she sweetly pointed out, "Sarah's crying. Mom, Sarah's crying.

I took a deep breath before I spoke to Ada. Words can carry an unspeakable weight and I didn't want to screw this up. But I think I might have. I told her, "Yes, Sarah is crying. Sarah is crying because you pushed her down. That hurt Sarah, that hurt Sarah's feelings. Sarah is crying because of something you did. Ada made Sarah cry."

I don't know if Ada understood this all because she was still telling me that Sarah was crying. I told her how if she pushes other little kids that they won't want to play with her. By the time we got to the car I was really on a roll and I speculated that I didn't know if she could play with Sarah again. That it would be a miracle if her mother allowed her to play with Sarah and I could hardly blame her.

She must have understood this part of it because this was when she started crying. She was very quiet in the car. When we got home I told her to go to her father. He put her down for a nap.


I spent the rest of the day thinking about  it - about what happened, about my response to it. I was disappointed in her behavior, yes. My child isn't an ogre or a bully. In fact, she's typically very sweet, considerate, affectionate and lovely.

However, when she needs her personal space she doesn't really know what to do about that. I keep telling her to say, "no thank you" when another kid is trying to hug her or something. It doesn't always work though. It wasn't until later that I recognized that this is where I've failed her: rather than giving her a second step I just gave her step one and left her on her own to figure out the rest, which she did. Instead of stepping away or turning around or asking again or saying "I need space, please", which are all options I should have given her, she pushes the other child away. I didn't give her the tools she needed.

I failed her in this way and I'm miserable about it.


Then there's my response. This is something I think about ALL THE TIME. Words can carry more sting than a spanking - they can be so powerful and make a lasting impression. I don't want to use guilt or manipulation to make her behave. I believe that there is a much better, gentler, more compassionate way to raise children. Finding role models for this has been...harder than I had hoped. I'm figuring it out as I go, often making my own rules and mistakes.

Take  the day in question, for example. I might have said too much or been too severe in my delivery in the car on the way home. I saved what I really had to say to her for when we were alone, which made me think that I was about to say something I might be ashamed of. I consciously tried to not speak impulsively. I tried not to but what if I didn't exercise enough restraint?

I gave her the cold shoulder once we got home. That wasn't good. I reasoned that it was better to not say anything than to say things that were really hurtful and damaging. Does this qualify as with holding love? I hope not. Even when she has behaved badly I love her even if I am upset with her.

Knowing unconditional love is one of the cornerstones of being the parent I WANT to be.


Then there's the part where I have to be honest: I was upset by how her behavior might reflect on me. I was embarrassed. I didn't want anyone to think I was a bad mother or that my kid was a bad seed. I felt so ashamed of her behavior and wondered if my response to it was "right" enough. The only thing worse than kid A being mean to kid B is the parent of kid A doing nothing about it. I wondered if Ada would be allowed to play with Sarah again. I worried that this meant I was a bad mother, a bad role model. The fear from 3 weeks ago struck me again - one day, will I be so angry that I can't forgive her quickly enough and it creates a distance between us?

Have I already begun to fail?

Things happen with toddlers, especially when they're just learning how to control their impulses. We all get that on some level, or at least I think we do. Don't we? Maybe I'm over-thinking it but I feel like the door has been cracked open juuuust enough to let me see more of the issues that await us as she grows up. I don't want to be unprepared, to have not thought ahead and anticipated problems, because doing so also lets me plan my reaction a bit better. Somehow I expected that at my age I'd have a better idea of how to handle all of this. How disappointing to learn that I don't have the answers.

I have so much to learn.

7 Lovies:

Kim said...

I read your words and they could have been written by me when my youngest was a toddler.

I did just what you did.
Experienced the surprise and shock, and the embarrassment and anger.

Yes, I failed my daughter multiple times.
In spite of my imperfections as a mom, she still grew into a wonderful young lady, thank goodness.

So I want to share with you there is hope.

We learn. We adjust our behavior and especially our responses.
We offer grace and forgiveness in measures untold.

We also got the book "Positive Discipline" by Jane Nelson. It was truly a life saver for us.

Good luck, and remember to offer yourself lots of grace and forgiveness!

Lisa said...

Doll. All kids will push or hit or something sometime or another. PJ has hit, pushed, kicked, his sister, his friends. Maggie will hit or push back. It's how toddlers are, and it has nothing to do with your abilities as a mother. You are a wonderful, amazing, loving mom and it's just how it rolls. It doesn't make Ada any less sweet or loving. It just means she still has to learn.


Katie E said...

You are not failing! You'll be able to teach her how to handle these situations. I totally get what you're saying about your reaction. I can sometimes be terrible about having an initial angry reaction with my girls and saying words that I know hurt their feelings. I think so many of those situations stick with us as parents so much longer than they impact the kids though.

Heather said...

Lily has a best friend who she pushed (more than once). I also was shocked and felt it reflected on me. Then my mom told me something that I try to remember daily. She is still a very small child. She will make mistakes and this is how she learns proper behavior. They are just flexing their muscles and spreading their wings in an attempt to learn. I have made plenty of mistakes with Lily and am learning too (it should never stop). We just have to strive to be better. Ada will be an incredible person, I have no doubt. Hugs to you.

The Anecdotal Baby said...

This has been one of my biggest fears (my LO is only just a year), I worry all the time at play dates, groups, etc... how she'll interact with other children (she's the first, no siblings yet or cousins). I, too, worry that negative behavior will reflect negatively upon me. I think your thoughts and feelings are perfectly normal. It's a learning process... for them AND for us. Hand in there, sounds like you're doing a great job.

Stopping by from PYHO.

jms said...

Monica, she is 2 years old and very normal. I think you overthought this. When Tim was 2 he hit a friend in the head with a metal lunchbox. She got 9 stitches. I made him say he was sorry and paid the doctor bill. They were best friends again that afternoon.

Shell said...

We all have gut reactions that aren't the best sometimes. But now you know what you can teach her differently and how you'll hand it if it happens again. Don't be hard on yourself.