I think sometimes people (myself included) forget that even though you might have an “easy” (or a “happy” or “good-natured”) child, that same child is still entitled to her fair share of hard moments, toddler meltdowns, and general whiny-ness.
And that those moments are okay. They are normal. They are part of growing up.
As part of my pre-bedtime reading, I’ve been slowly making my way through Simplicity Parenting, a nonfiction self-help of sorts that deals with harnessing the power of simplification to raise happier, calmer kids. Although I have some significant issues with the book (which I’ll discuss at some future point when I do a more formal book review of it), I came across this one part in my reading last night that struck me with particular force:
“As parents we must not become ‘harmony addicted.’ It’s tempting to hope that every day might be a sort of ‘rainbow experience’ for our children. Wouldn’t that be nice? If only we could suspend them in a sort of happiness bubble. But they need conflict.” (26)
Yesterday was not the easiest day of stay-at-home parenting. It involved a thrown-off schedule, a way-too-short nap (that I’m almost tempted to think perhaps even didn’t happen at all based on the behavior immediately following said nap), and lots of big tears and loud whines and a general discontent that permeated the better part of the late morning and early afternoon.
This all went on for hours. HOURS.
All day long, I found myself constantly searching for the “problem.” Was she hungry? (I tried offering food.) Was she cold? (I turned up the heat.) Was she tired? (I tried…and tried and tried and tried…) to put her down for a nap. Did she just want some meaningful one-on-one time? (I tried to read her a book, which she tore from my hands and threw across the room.)
Nothing seemed to help.
Finally, when I’d about reached yelling point (which is HARD to get me to do, thanks to years and years of practice with dealing with 7th graders), I just picked her up and held her in my arms like I did when she was a baby.
This being a position that she normally hates (because she’s not in control as much of what she can see and how she can move), she struggled. But I picked up her blanket and held tight and sat down in the glider and just held her until she calmed down.
And we rocked and rocked and rocked for probably half an hour straight, in near total silence.
I wish I could say it was all magical and perfectly harmonious after that, but it wasn’t. She still started to whine and cry when I shifted positions so that she was sitting up, and she still cried when I put her back down on the floor to go play. (I successfully distracted her with the lure of the Christmas tree for about ten minutes, which is when I got all these pictures, but it was not to last.)
And so she followed me around, whining all the while, and then because I was exhausted (and she’d been acting exhausted all day), I finally gave in to the siren call to veg and we turned out the lights and put on Tangled and just cuddled and watched the entire movie from start to finish until Matt came home (at which point, she was, of course, all smiles).
I didn’t realize that I’d become addicted to harmony until I read that particular section of my book last night, and it kind of reached out from the page and knocked me up-side the head a bit.
And so I thought about it. And then thought some more. And then today, it’s been on my mind as the same cycle seems to be threatening to rear its ugly head again.
Yes, I obviously should try to offer a solution if there’s an obvious problem at hand (hunger, cold, tiredness, sickness).
But Raven, as sweet and good-tempered and smart and funny and playful and delightful as she is most of the time, is entitled to bad moods, too. She’s entitled to feel sad and grumpy and lonely and bored and frustrated.
Now, of course, the great challenge for me will be in helping her work through those emotions and express them appropriately (which hopefully will not involve throwing around her books for too much longer).