Thursday, July 28, 2011

Being a Grown-up

It's not easy, this task of parenting.  Just when you get over the hump of the baby years (well, I'm still in them, but anyway...), you realize that you are now responsible for raising a person, who will hopefully be kind, compassionate, and well-balanced.  As my good friend Katie pointed out to me, you can't make your child empathetic, but you can instill a sense of good judgment and teach him to be kind to others.  Days are filled with "teaching moments", and I am the first to admit that I don't always have a well-written lesson plan.  I find myself losing my temper far more often than I'd like in dealing with the challenges that come with having a three-year-old, and I know that getting emotional about her defiant streak and boundary-pushing is the exact opposite of what I should do, but in the moment I have a hard time remembering that.  What I need to do is validate her feelings and emotions, but teach her that her actions and reactions are not always appropriate or allowed.  Yes, it's okay to be upset that your brother took your toy away, and he should not have done that, but kicking him in the shin is not an acceptable way of letting him know it.  "Use your words," and "We don't use our hands in a mean way," are phrases I'm repeating often lately, and it sometimes makes me sad that she doesn't automatically know that it is never okay to hurt another person.  The truth is, even though she is incredibly smart, cognitively she does not yet comprehend that her actions have an effect on other people.  We'll get there, but it's going to take some tantrums on her part and some extreme patience on mine.

I am also beginning to realize that I can't always control or project my children's emotions and reactions.  Lilah and I had the opportunity to go on a "date night" this week, and I was so excited about what I had planned.  I wanted to take her to the movie theater for the first time, to see the new Winnie-the-Pooh movie.  She loves Disney movies, popcorn, and candy, so this would be a treat that included all three.  How could it go wrong?  Well, as much as my girl loves all of those things, she is absolutely terrified of loud noises and of the dark, and her fears were too much to overcome once we got into the cinema.  She refused to stay, said she wanted to go home, and planted herself on the carpet outside the theater door.  I tried a couple of times to convince her how much fun it would be, to no avail.  So we sat on the floor, ate our popcorn and neon gummy worms, and decided to head out for dinner instead.  I was immensely disappointed; I truly had wanted to see the movie, and to share the experience of going to the theater (which is one of my favorite things to do) with her had me very excited.  But I had to "be a grown-up", take my disappointment in stride, and consider my daughter's feelings first.  We ended up having a fun time anyway, with dinner at the 99 Restaurant and a quick trip to the craft store.  Maybe we'll try the theater again later this year (the girl loves Christmas, just like her momma, so if a good holiday flick comes out, it might do the trick), but for now we'll keep our dates to things I know she'll enjoy, like going to the mall or the museum.

I still want to see Winnie-the-Pooh, though.

All dressed up for our date.  And yes, I'm dorky and made my daughter wear a matching headband with me.
The gummy worms didn't stand a chance.

As much as she can push my buttons, this girl is truly a sweetheart.  She loves her baby brother so much.  "He's my heart," she tells me.

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