Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And Then He Gave Me Consequences

(My little boy sharing popcorn with Daddy.)

I was recently given consequences for my actions . . . from my two year old! I have never been prouder!

My husband works from home and I am a stay at home mom. This arrangement began this June and seems to suit us just fine about 96% of the time. The truth is that my husband's work keeps him so busy in his home office that we rarely see him during the day, but the lack of commute means that we now see more of him in the morning and in the evening than we used to. However, there are times when he is on important meetings via the phone when it is imperative that things are kept quiet on that end of the house as much as possible. During one of those times, my son started throwing a tantrum IN THE ROOM ADJOINING THE OFFICE. Now, this is a situation in which I did not make my best parenting decision. Instead of moving my son into another room, holding him, and letting him cry in my arms while I sorted out what was going on (which is what I should have done), I yelled at him. That's right, my solution to the noise level not being quiet enough? Add to it! (Not such a good choice, eh?) To my chagrin, I'll admit that I didn't just yell. I lost it. We'd been having a rough day and my husband had many, many calls in the days leading up to that day and my son had many tantrums that week. None of that excuses my behavior; these are just the reasons why the situation was intense. I was one mean Mama and I was not the least bit gentle in the way I handled him. I knew by the look on my son's face that I had gone way too far and it broke my heart. Within a few seconds, I went from absolutely crazy angry, to utterly saddened and remorseful.

I held him while he sobbed and I took deep breaths with him, but he knew and I knew that it was too little, too late. He nursed a little, and that seemed to help. Then, when he finally did calm down enough to eat his popcorn snack (something we usually share), he gave me consequences. He would not let me have any popcorn. I could read his message in his eyes and body language as clearly as if he were saying it. His little fist and his stern "no" were his way of saying "Mama, you really hurt my feelings a little while ago and I just don't feel like sharing with you right now." So, I did what I felt he wanted me to do. I begged him for the popcorn and let him tell me "no" over and over again. He never got angry about it; we both knew that it had nothing to do with the actual popcorn and that he needed the release of being the one in charge and the one who would decide when we were ready to be "okay" again. My son does not have any abstract language, yet, but that doesn't stop him from feeling things like "anger," "frustration," and "hurt." It just keeps him from being able to talk about it. So, we talked about popcorn instead.

"Can Mama have popcorn, please?"


"I love you Owen very much and I'm very sorry about being so mean. May I have some popcorn?"

"No. No Mama popcorn."

I asked him if he wanted me to give him some space and he told me "Mama stay. No popcorn, Mama, [but] Mama stay." He then snuggled his back a little closer to me and allowed me to feed him some popcorn as if to say "I still love you and I'm almost ready to forgive you, but I just need a little more time and a little more effort from you." I could have cried because it was all so clearly written in his little blue eyes. As much as it saddened me to have driven my two year old to communicate these kinds of feelings with me, I was also so very, very proud of him for finding away to express them to me in a way much better than I had just expressed my feelings with him. Here was the model of perfect gentle parenting coming I from my own baby! Realistic consequences, honest feelings, continued presence even when he was clearly very angry with me . . . he was everything I want to be. After about twenty minutes, he turned to me and studied me with his intelligent, sweet little eyes. I knew he was thinking about forgiving me. I tried one last time.

"Can Mama have some popcorn?"

"Yes" he whispered, gave me a hug, and fed me a little popcorn.

I've learned an important lesson through this. My imperfection is sometimes the chance my child needs to illustrate the grace and patience he's working on. It turns out that if I treat my son like a human being who occasionally needs forgiveness, he will do the same for me. I may not always be the mom I want to be. I may not always be the mom he deserves. I may not always be the mom he wants to have, but I have to say that something must be going right if my son feels strong enough to stand up for his feelings in a gentle, but firm way, and can find a way to communicate not only hurt, but love and forgiveness using only a popcorn bowl.

Thanks for reading,


Meegs said... [Reply to comment]

This is wonderful. I get so frustrated with myself when I have those moments of not parenting the way that I want to. But it is good to see that our children learn as much from our imperfections as from our strengths.

Shawna said... [Reply to comment]
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shawna said... [Reply to comment]

@Meegs I'm right there with you! I just have to keep reminding myself that it takes our children years to raise a good mom. (That's probably why grandmothers are so awesome!)

Jennifer P said... [Reply to comment]

Beautiful! I'm at that stage where my son is having big feelings, but can't express them at all yet. Very hard for a little guy.

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