Is there a moment that defines the power and necessity of celebrating “a willingness to participate in life” vs. a positive outcome? Yes. there is.
Shopping Trip to Hell
The day before school started, in the heat of the day, I took 5 children to the grocery store; 4 biological kids and a friend’s child who was staying with us for the day.
At the end of the trip, the youngest (6) pulled out her money and picked out a candy bar to purchase. Her older sister (9) noticed the sign that said buy one, get 2 free. Hmmm? The 9 year old did a quick calculation- that’s 3 candy bars for the price of one – and quickly & earnestly suggested that she and her older sister (age 12) be the recipients of the 2 additional candy bars. But wait — the 9 year old suddenly realizes that there weren’t enough free candy bars for the friend. Not to worry, it’s just a problem that needs a solution – right? So, she asks the 6 year old to buy another candy bar, after all they are just a buck and her sister appears loaded with ones – thus making sure everyone got a candy bar with 2 left over for good measure.
I Don’t Think So…
Unfortunately, the 6 year old didn’t see it quite this way. Instead of agreeing, she took a stand … nope, not gonna’ happen, really only wanted to spend money on one candy bar for herself. Her sisters getting candy was just a side benefit…she dug in her heels and innocently inquired why the friend did not have his own money to buy his own candy bar?
“C’mon! Please!” and the begging began. The 9 year old was even willing to PAY the $1 for the extra candy bar when we got home… but the 6 year old was not budging and proceeded through the line to buy her 3 candy bars. The 9 year old continued with the pleading and begging, which only served to inflame her younger sister until finally, the 6 year old reverted to – wait for it – punching and scratching the 9 year old. Lovely right?
Stop Looking at Me, I’ll Handle it!
At this point, people began to stare and look a bit concerned. And then it happened – I was stung; stung by the bug called, personal prestige. The transaction at the register was completed, I walked outside and in an emotionally charged state…took the candy from the child who was hitting and threw all 3 candy bars in the trash. Done. End of story. I know, very mature of me.
In my irrational and embarrassed state – I justified my actions by convincing myself in the moment, that
“A child who hits to solve a problem, does not deserve candy.”
The Fight for Justice Ensues!
As soon as the candy was confiscated and tossed, the 9 year old – recipient of the punching, defender of fairness and sharing – turned to me and protested whole-heartedly that I “could not do that because the candy did not belong to me. I did not buy that candy and did not have the right to throw it out” and the screaming fit ensued.
I kept walking until we reached the car. I climbed in and let the older 2 kids unload the grocery bags. I managed to keep my mouth shut, although I was seething inside, not so much about the hitting, as that wasn’t directed at me, but at the dressing down I had taken, in public by my 9 year old, and drove home in silence. I shudder to think of all the nasty thoughts I had during the ride home.
Celebrate the Dragon Lady?
Yes, I screwed up. Because of the Parenting On Track™ program I knew it. Because of the program, I knew not to look for a discipline strategy right in that moment.
Because of the program I knew I had “mistaken beliefs” and they had been activated. Because of the program, I had the self-restraint to keep my mouth shut on the drive home.
Because of the program, I knew how to apologize to my children. Because of the program, in the 15 minutes it took to get home, I had a genuine, sincere, heart-felt appreciation for the 9 year old whose tantrum received the brunt of my negative thoughts, feelings and energy.
A Miraculous Perspective
“E, I am sorry. I am sorry for getting involved. I am sorry that I did not show you that I trusted the two of you to handle things. I am sorry that I did not keep my focus on your younger sister and encourage the rest of you to leave the store and go to the car.”
“Do you want to know what I KNOW to be true about who you are on the planet? I know that you are the most loyal sister in the world. I know that no matter what, you will stand up for your sister until the end. I know that you are concerned with justice and fairness and no matter what it takes you will do what it takes to fight for what you believe is right. Thank you.”
Yes, I said all of that and I meant every word of it. And all it took was a mere 15 minutes to shift from blame, anger and revenge, to respect, appreciation and love – for myself and for my children.
The trip to the grocery store ended in a big fat hug and a greater awareness of myself and my daughter. A reason to celebrate – ABSOLUTELY!
What? You let her GET AWAY with it?
“Now what?” “Isn’t there a consequence for hitting?” “How does your daughter know it’s not ok to throw a temper tantrum in the store?” “You just can’t let her get away with that.” “You are the parent. YOU are in control.” “Some things are just not OK.” “Why didn’t you just loan her the money?”
I know the questions. I know the statements. I have heard them all and even have my own set of voices yelling at me from inside my head.
Be – Do – Have
I will follow up with all of my children when I am not vibrating with emotion, and I can trust myself to be reasonable, respectful and loving.
I will focus on what I can do differently the next time, and answer the question:
“What will it take for E(9) and J(6) to find their voices AND treat others with compassion, empathy, and respect?”
This question will not be answered in a trip to the grocery store, in a response to hitting that demonstrates (adult) power- over another human (child). It will be answered in small steps, individual moments every day that invite my children into the process of living, making decisions, experiencing the outcomes and moving forward.
We will have 25 more episodes in the grocery store, I am sure of that. And if every time I commit to working toward enhancing the relationship I have with my children, encouraging their budding independence and maintaining self-respect, I have reason to celebrate.