We’ve all had those days when we fall into bed exhausted after teaching, corralling, making difficult decisions, and nurturing our little ones. Then there are those moments where you have to make split-second parenting calls; you know, when your little one says something inappropriate out in public, especially when it’s directed towards someone. I had one of those public moments last week, when my gregarious son, after having been cooped-up in the house with a cold, decided to chat up every stranger we passed in the store. Declan’s a pretty charismatic kid, so people typically engage with him, whether he initiates it or not, but on this occasion, we happened to be next to a woman in the grocery store aisle who seemingly just wanted to shop in peace. After several “hellos”, Declan vocalized his inability to understand the lack of acknowledgement from the woman, turning to me and repeatedly saying “mommy, that little lady isn’t saying hi” and “why won’t that little lady say hi?” Every adult, for reasons only know to Declan, is a “little man” or a “little lady”, and other children are referred to as “little boys” and “little girls” (much to other, older children’s dismay).
My inner voice told me that this woman just wanted to shop quickly and unmolested (which I totally get), but the parent in me needed to come up with a polite explanation, as the woman was within earshot. I gently told Declan that the woman was concentrating on shopping, but still felt that I had missed a greater explanation. Life, and parenting, is completely spur of the moment and spontaneous; I handled the situation the best way I could in that given moment.
Today I was faced with one of those parenting situations, in which you have some time to think about what choice to make, and you battle between what you believe might be a good or a bad decision. While working in my office, in a room adjacent to Declan’s playroom, I heard ominous rustling sounds. Before I had a chance to react, Declan burst into the room wielding a RedBox DVD, eager to show me what he had done (we’re in the ‘getting into boxes, cases, things you shouldn’t be getting into stage’). I admonished him for touching something he’s been told a hundred times not to touch, and followed him out to the living room to procure the case and place the rental on a high shelf. The case was nowhere to be found. An hour later, we had still not found the blasted case!
Earlier that day, I had finalized plans to meet up with a good friend of mine and her little ones, eager to catch up after months of missed connections; illnesses, travel, and the holidays had prevented us from getting together. I was eager to have some mom/girl time, and our sons, a year and a half apart, enjoy playing together. I hadn’t seen my girlfriend since my miscarriage in the fall, and I had some items to return from the amazing care package she had left on my doorstep (a vase from beautiful wildflowers, some mason jars from homemade apple sauce and chicken broth she had kindly left for me). Her thoughtful care package also included some amazing produce from her CSA (my friend is starting her own family farm, you can take a look HERE). We’ve been working on teaching consequences to Declan, so I felt my only choice was to threaten to cancel the play date if the case in question was not located.
I texted my girlfriend, letting her know that we may have to cancel, explaining the situation and the parenting moment I was haviing and apologizing profusely; she understood, thank goodness. We searched up until Declan’s nap time, still unable to locate the case. After Googling what to do (FYI – you can return a DVD without a case to RedBox by purchasing a case from the kiosk), I texted the situation to my husband and told him that I had decided to cancel the play date [and how I upset I was to do so]. In that moment I was furious; the selfish part of me was ticked that I was going to have to miss out on a much-needed outing, while the parent in me knew that this was a teaching moment. My husband offered his thoughts on the situation, and urged me not to punish myself because of Declan’s actions. My response? It’s about the bigger picture here.
While Declan is still a bit young to really grasp cause and effect and consequences to actions, now is the time for me to begin practicing the way I want to parent. I don’t want to be the parent who throws out empty ‘threats’ and never follows through, teaching my child that I don’t mean what I say or that he can manipulate his way out of [or into] situations. I try to stay cognizant of the fact that he is, at the moment, an only child, not wanting to overindulge him or coddle him in any way.
Needless to say, today was a difficult day in parenting for me. I navigate the uncharted waters of parenting with the knowledge I’ve gained in watching family and friends raise their children, and the myriad of parenting books I read to help me make the ‘right’ choices. Yes, I’m sad that I missed my much anticipated outing, but I feel confident that in doing so, I was able to teach my son a life lesson [and practice my parenting skills].