As I was debating whether or not I should write a piece about kindness and candid moments when acting as such is difficult (usually related to politics), I was lost for inspiration. Perhaps it was due in part to the fact that we are underneath cardboard boxes in preparation for our move or the busy school holidays coming to an end, or both. Either way, I struggled to find my words.
Until this morning.
My inspiration came as I dropped the kids off at school after having a few weeks at home together over the break. There were moments where we created beautiful memories, and then there were those where I felt more like a referee and wanted to rip my hair out – all while trying to edit a manuscript. That was a fun exercise in how much I could juggle at once.
Sarcasm aside, I was looking forward to getting back into a routine. I will be the first person to admit, I am not a stay-at-home parent and I have never had a desire to be a stay-at-home parent. This is not a jab at anyone who is. I simply enjoy being a working parent and find my career fulfilling, and that is something I have never nor will I ever apologize for. And if you have chosen to be a stay-at-home parent, neither should you. Your life, your choice. Own it!
As I gathered the uniforms, made the lunches (complete with embarrassing love notes from mom), and got school bags in order – I was happy to know that in less than 24 hours life would resemble normalcy again. Morning battles included.
While I managed to get both kids dressed, fed, and happily in the car for school, once we arrived it was a different story. Our son, who complained about having to go back at breakfast joyfully ran off with his friends and that was the end of that. Easy. Whew. One down, one to go.
Our daughter struggled with morning drop off for most of second term. To help prepare for this morning, we spent some time together last night discussing strength and bravery, and she was happily looking forward to the return. Until it was time for me to turn and walk the other way.
“Mommy!” She screamed as the tears came streaming down her face, followed by running after me and grabbing at my jacket. As a parent, it is moments like this where you need to dig deep to remember coddling your children certainly isn’t going to teach them anything about life.
I gave her a hug and walked her back to her class line, trying to position her next to one of her friends and tell her it would be fine. She managed to grab the arm of my jacket and was not letting go – not for anything. Little miss has a good death grip.
As a parent, there are two options. Give in or Be strong
I went with option 2.
I put one of her hands into that of her teacher and I gently pried her other from the arm of my jacket. And then I turned and quickly walked away.
If you think seeing your child cry and scream is easy, it’s not, for anyone. We have all been there. Whether it is school drop off, a moment in the grocery store, or at some other time. When you are raising small humans, it is a tough job and there are always going to be those moments. Which is why it is so important as parents to lift one another up and to give that supportive “nod” from time to time – I understand, you got this, you’re doing a good job.
But how often do we find ourselves watching with judgment as opposed to understanding?
Years ago, I was out shopping with my best friend and her daughter, who was quite young at the time. The idea of having kids of my own wasn’t even a thought at that point in my life, so to say I had absolutely no concept of parenting would be an understatement. When her daughter started to throw a tantrum in the middle of the store, I was mortified and had no idea how to handle the situation. I looked around and caught a few side glances and glares in our direction, which made me even more uncomfortable. My girlfriend on the other hand handled it like a champion.
She looked straight at her child and said, “you can either quit right now or we are leaving.” She continued screaming and without fail, picked her up and off we went, leaving a cart full of items right there in the middle of the store.
I followed quickly, while figuratively picking my jaw up off the floor.
It was one of the greatest teaching moments that came for me, years later, when I would have children of my own.
We love our children and we want everything to work for them, but bending to do so isn’t going to teach them resilience. If we are constantly giving in to our children at the first sign of tears or tantrums, what are we teaching them about life? If they kick and scream enough, they will eventually get their way!?
Don’t get me wrong, it was extremely difficult to walk away from my daughter this morning but I can all but guarantee, as soon as I was out of sight, she was fine. And when I returned to school at the end of the day, I was greeted with a great big smile and a hug – the tears from earlier in the day a distant memory.
It reminds me of the story told by someone I look up to with both admiration and respect. When she was a little girl and was being bullied by other kids in the neighborhood, she came running into her home with tears and her mother turned her straight back around and said, “you go right back out there and stand up for yourself.”
Granted, my daughter had a bit of separation anxiety as opposed to being bullied, but the lesson behind it is the same. When we allow our children to feel, to process, and to realize they have the ability to handle situations, we are empowering them. We are giving them the courage and strength they need to believe in themselves. And let’s be honest, wouldn’t you rather instill that in them now as opposed to having a 30-something who can’t adjust to life living in your basement years down the road?
While I certainly don’t expect my daughter to “figure it out” on her own at 6 years old, I do want to show her that she is strong and she has everything within her that she needs to succeed – at life and whatever else she puts her mind to.
After all, isn’t that what parenting is? To raise awesome kids who turn into well-adjusted adults? We may all stumble from time to time, hell, parenting is hard fucking work! But if we are doing the best we can, that’s all that matters.
As I turned around to make a beeline for the parking lot, I received a wink and a nod of support from one parent, a smile from another, and a high-five from one more. Underneath my sunglasses, tears were forming (it sucks seeing your babies cry) but that subtle support from others who understand was all I needed.
And sometimes that’s all it takes.
We are all just living our lives and doing the best we can with what we have. Parenting is a tough job – be kind to one another, give the parent with the screaming kid a thumbs up. You never know when you might need that nod or high-five to get you through one of those tough moments.
Cheers to a new week. It takes a village (a subtle hint on who the above story is about).