The Kindness Route

Yesterday felt long. I was burned-out at 6 PM. Poured myself a glass of wine and handed my daughter over to my husband. My little Lila was challenging, to say the least. I was probably challenging to her too.

To me being challenging is not the same as being bad. It just simply means being human. No matter how small in size Lila is, she is human. She has feelings and can have bad days too, just like adults. I acknowledge that.

I have finally figured out why spending a whole day with a toddler could drive me crazy. Toddlers are raw. They show emotions without any filter. They blurt things out, scream, yell, cry, cling like you are a juggle gym, but also laugh, and love to the fullest. I am a big fan of the laughing and loving part, but not so much of the other. Keeping my composure is hard when at the same time I was being hit by endless waves of huge emotions.

As adults we are rarely faced with a person who scream and cry to our face when their demands are not met. And these said demands can be absolutely over-the-top (read: take too much energy and/or time) or straight out impossible. As adults we are used to politeness and words that are easy to understand. We have e-mails and texts for things that are too hard to be said face-to-face. We are also more accustomed to people who do not scream bloody murder every other second. Toddlers are NOT those kind of people.

The most challenging part about yesterday was how sassy Lila could get. She would look at me dead in the eyes and answer, "NO". I was merely asking her to do a simple act such as closing the pantry door. Then the "No" took a turn into "NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!! NO NO NO NO WAY, IBU!". She even tried to hit me several times. I was honestly shocked and hurt. This happened so many times yesterday. I went from giving her timeouts and after that tried to talk to her on what she had done wrong, to just looking at her straight in the eyes and not said anything. The latter made her whimper and then apologized. My heart was broken. I thought that I have surely failed as a parent. She disobeyed me. She even raised her voice and hand to me. 

At the end of the day (which was 6 PM to me), I could not care less about what she was doing. As my husband played and giggled with Lila, I tried to analyze the whole day through. What happened? I thought about how Lila talked to me, how she would get frustrated when things did not go her way, and how I was reacting to her. I then realized that I was not my best self either yesterday. I was grumpy and stressed out because of other stuff. I did not pay attention when she called out to me because I was busy thinking and doing other things. I told her (many times) to play by herself. I did not see or listen to her and I sort of dismissed her when she wanted my attention. I always told her to be respectful of other people, yet I failed to respect her. Monkey see, monkey do. The reflection in the mirror was not pretty. It was a slap in the face.

I got sad last night thinking how fast time flew. Lila will grow older and then she would need me less and less. There will always be other things going on in our lives, but Lila is the utmost important to me. I want her to know that other things might look bigger and more important, but she trumps all of them. She is my number 1.

So today I tried a different approach. I realize that I get easily panicked over a lot of things, mostly things that I feel I have little control of. And when I'm panicked, I get short-tempered and all over the place. I usually just mess things up even more than they already are. The words that I blurted out of my mouth are hostile and unpleasant. This morning, before anything else, I set my intention; I would move slowly and talk kindly. I would see Lila. I would listen to her. And I did. 

Today, every time she raised her voice or made crazy demands, I took a couple of seconds to react. I told her I heard what she said and I understood that she might feel upset that I could not give her A, B, or C. Then I tried to discuss with her the solution to our problem. And every time she looked like she was going to bawl or scream bloody murder, I touched her face and said, "I love you". Most of the time I succeeded in calming her down or making her smile by doing that. Other times she would still end up screaming and crying. Nonetheless, I felt better because I treated her with respect. It was not easy, I must say. Snapping, yelling, and dismissing were easier and quicker. But they also made me feel like a world-class A-hole.

I am a firm believer of well-behaved children. I was raised by laid-back parents who had rules and would not take any kind of crap from their children. My late maternal grandmother was an old-school teacher who would not resist putting her grandchildren in their place when we did something wrong or disrespectful. She would disciplined her children and her grandchildren just the same. Thus I would walk through fire before I would let Lila grow up to be a mean, disrespectful, privileged adult. I just don't think being a cranky, full of anger, distanced, and distracted parent is the answer to inspire someone to grow up to be a kind and compassionate human being.  

I am sure there will be days when I would completely forget about my intention to take the kindness route. There will be days when I would mess things up and then regret the things I do or say, but I will sure as heck try my best to take things slow and be the human (and mother) I want my daughter can be proud of. A human who is kind to others and herself. It's a long road ahead, but it does not look as scary now. 

There is no way to be a perfect mother
and a million ways to be a good one.

-Jill Churchill


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