Today, I read a beautiful blog post titled “Instead I Held You.” It really is a sweet and gentle reminder to stop and savor the sweet moments with our little ones. But, as a mother of an almost 5 year old and 6 1/2 year old, my little ones aren’t falling asleep in my arms too often any more, and I don’t need the reminder to stop cleaning as they fall asleep in my arms, because it happens so rarely I recognize it as a treasure.
But, as my kids have gotten older, and necessarily branch away from me so they can become their own independent and capable selves, I realize the sentiment holds, but it goes maybe like this…
Today, my patience had worn thin because I hadn’t had nearly as much alone time as I needed, or time to just rest, or read a book, or sit and not think for a minute. And in the middle of all that, you’d had a bad day too. So…
Today, when you walked in the door from school, dropped your backpack in the middle of the kitchen, and said, “I’m hungry. Where’s my snack?” I didn’t first tell you to put away your things and change your tone. I bent down, kissed you on the top of the head, and said I was glad to see you. You grunted, but you didn’t pull away from my kiss, and I noticed.
Today, when you were angry because I turned off the TV so you could help me set the table, I didn’t send you to your room on time out. I listened to your anger, and waited until you were calm enough to hear me say it’s important to work as a team. You were still mad, but you took the dishes and slowly set the table. I simply said thank you. I noticed you kept coming back to the kitchen to ‘not help’, even after you were done setting the table.
Today, when you slammed your door after shouting that you hated me, I took deep breaths, and continued making your dinner. When you came out a few minutes later, I stopped what I was doing, turned and faced you, kneeling down to your level, and looking into your eyes, simply said, “I know you don’t hate me, but when you use those words, it hurts my heart. I still love you.” I let you walk away without forcing an apology, because I knew you heard me. And when you walked in and kissed my stomach, because that’s how high you come now, and then quickly walked away, I knew you were sorry.
Today, when you kept speaking rudely to our guests and me, breaking family rules, and rolling your eyes at me, I didn’t take away your toys or TV time. I gently asked you to come into your room with me, then I sat on the floor and asked if you wanted to sit with me. Turns out that’s all you wanted. Just a few quiet minutes with me. We just sat there and took some deep breaths together. Sometimes company is hard on all of us.
Today, when your daddy and I were fighting, and you came in and started interrupting with an urgent need for string cheese right after dinner, I didn’t yell at you. I stopped, looked at your dad with knowing eyes, and asked if it bothered you when we fought. You said yes. Your dad put his arm around me and I leaned in, even though we were mad, so you could see we were ok. I told you that we still loved each other, and sometimes you fight. And sometimes, when you fight, if you do it with love, you actually love each other more at the end. We asked if you wanted to watch us work through what we were arguing about. You did. So we argued as maturely as we could, hoping to teach you that conflict happens, and we have a choice how we engage with it. Later, I heard you fight with your sister; you were kind even though you were angry.
Today, when you told me I looked fat, I didn’t tell you that it was a mean thing to say. I smiled, I told you I loved my body, and that I hoped you grew up to love yours, too. I told you that it doesn’t matter what size your body is as long as you are taking care of it – eating healthy, exercising, making safe choices, and doing things that bring you joy. I also told you that in many places in the world, fat is a compliment – so hold your ideas loosely, and ask questions like “huh, I wonder why we do that/think that” before you jump in with both feet.
Today, when you came in to my room at 6:30am and told me you didn’t want to go to school, I didn’t say you had to. I asked why. When you explained it was, I quote,”unreasonable to expect me to sit still for 5 days, and then what, only get two days off? It’s too much”, I agreed and told you that you could stay home. As I was on the phone with the school office, telling them you were absent due to a mental health day, I smiled as I watched you building a playground out of scrap wood for the chickens.
Today, when your young boy eyes fell on the bikini clad bronze woman on the front of the magazine at the check out line, I didn’t shoo you away or tell you stop. I asked what you were thinking. When you said you wondered why she was in her underwear, I sighed, and did my best to help you understand. To somehow help you learn about respecting bodies, yours and hers, and to also respect that it was her choice to be on the magazine in her bikini underwear. Then, I directed your sisters eyes to the magazine and asked you both if you thought she looked like a real woman, or if you thought they’d maybe changed the picture. You both said they’d changed the picture. I agreed, and said real bodies are beautiful and don’t need photoshopped slimming.
Today, when you woke me up at 2am saying you were hungry, I didn’t send you back to bed, I got up with you and we had a secret bowl of cheerios in our pajamas with just the little light over the stove to illuminate our faces. I was tired, but I want you to know when you’re 16 years old that I’ll have a 2am bowl of cheerios with you when something is on your mind, or you just need me to sit with you in the dark.
Today, when you said you just needed a Mommy Day, I didn’t explain that sometimes I need to work and you’d just have to play by yourself this morning. I turned on my out of office and we went to get pedicures. Your fancy toes looked amazing, and I noticed when you played quietly for hours after we got home so I could get work done.
Today, when you told your sister she had to give you one of her toys or you would kick her, I didn’t scold you hard and say you were violent. I pulled you to the side, and told you that when we only give someone two bad choices, we use our power to take away their power. Two bad choices isn’t much of a choice. Then I gave you a second try, and you told your sister you’d like to play with her toys, could you trade for a bit?
Today, when you refused to get your shoes on when it was time to go, I didn’t yell or storm you out to the car bare foot. I asked what was wrong, when you said it was my fault, I thought about your week and then asked you if it felt too busy. You said yes, and that you wished everyone in the world would just disappear except you and me. I understood and felt the same way. We cancelled our plans for the next day and spent it watching TV and snuggling instead.
Today, when you screamed at me that I was out of control, because let’s be honest, I was borderline out of control as I was so tired and frustrated, I somehow found a deep breath, lowered my voice, and said you were right. I asked you for a time out for my sake, explaining that time outs are breaks to help us be our best, and I was sure I needed one. You gave me one, and after I’d calmed down, I apologized and asked your forgiveness. Hard as I try, I can’t seem to make the right choice every time, but I promise to always ask your forgiveness.
Today, when it was hard, I got one piece of it closer to right. I don’t always, even usually, but today I did. Today, when it was hard – for you, or for me, I tried to remember that we’re in this together and I tried to show you that I love you. And I could tell you were trying, too.
This article originally appeared at All Sarah Does.