It was dark when we got to the park. The air was crisp but refreshing. The lights were glorious and all around.
There was only one problem… a terrorist was following me around. She was female, long blond hair, about four feet tall. And she calls me, “Mama.”
Most days I love that title as it rolls off her tongue and straight to my heart. But today, right now, it came only with demands.
“Mama, fix my gloves.”
“Mama, I’m hungry.”
“Mama, follow me now.”
“Mama, stay behind me, I said!”
And this was after her complaints about the new jacket (too puffy), the new gloves (too hard to hold things), and new hat (honestly, I’m not really sure why she won’t wear the hat–I don’t think she even knows!) had all been voiced all the way here.
Inwardly, I cringed at her attitude, her tone, her words.
I tried ignoring. I tried stern talking. I tried distraction. I tried playful interaction to lighten her mood. None of it phased her for long and she was back to “terrorist” status.
I struggle in these moments. I believe strongly in healthy attachments. I recently read an article about doing “time ins” rather than time outs so you don’t teach a child that they are only acceptable as people when they are happy and perfect. I see this as a vital concept. I also believe children need their parents to help them organize and regulate especially when upset. I don’t generally agree with leaving a child who is spiraling out of control in a room alone. As a counselor, I rarely see good come from this scenario.
But damn it’s hard to connect with and support a child who is acting hateful.
We get home from our “fun” Christmas-lights walk. Dinner, PJs, a show, and brushed teeth later, she is flat out refusing to go to bed. I have had enough. But thanks to my meditative, although un-peaceful walk, I am prepared to discipline and not punish.
“You’re going to bed without me tonight because I am not going to reward your disobedience.”
Wailing, crying, yelling, tears, pleading, and sniffling later, she finally falls asleep.
I left the door open, I left her lamp on, I checked on her every 5-7 minutes. I kissed her, wiped away tears, and tucked her in. But I did not sit down, rub her back, or read her a story.
She knew that she was loved but also learned that it’s okay to be alone with unsettling feelings. It’s a lesson most adults are still learning…