My daughter is an age where she is developing new skills at a rapid pace. She is putting pieces together she would have missed before. She is figuring out how to do things, which inspires her to figure out more. It’s wonderful to watch, and even better to be a part of. She’s young enough to include me in her process and her celebrations. In many ways, it’s like we’re doing all of these great things together.
This age she’s in is full of moments that make is easy to be a mom. More than easy, really. I’m so lucky to be a part of it all I can’t help but smother her with kisses and squeeze her in my arms as much as possible. I praise her effort, her persistance, and her achievements. I burst with excitement and gratitude and positive energy.
At this same age, my daughter is also pushing her boundaries further than ever. Boundaries I created. She is testing the limits around her. Limits that I put into place. She is asserting herself as her own person, making sure her voice is heard. When I’m not marveling over something amazing that she’s telling me, I’m listening to her shouting out, “NO!” in my direction. LOUDLY.
This age she’s in is full of moments that make it seem impossible to be a good mom. I try to hold it together because I’m supposed to be the adult here, but sometimes I really suck at adulting. Sometimes I explode with frustration and anger and monstrous meanness.
It seems to me that I am bombarding my daughter with an outpouring of emotion on a regular basis but exactly which type of emotion it is varies depending on the moment. During the good times, everything is laughter and tenderness. During the bad times, everything is chaos and crisis.
A few weeks ago, my daughter and I had our roughest week together – ever. She was whining and crying and no-ing left and right. I was turning red and yelling in response. We both cried a lot. I took away her sandals as a punishment one day after she threw them at my head. It was an ugly week for both of us.
I knew I had to help her turn her bad behaviors around, but I felt a bit like a hypocrite after exhibiting some frightful actions myself. So, when she told me I was acting ugly and stupid I didn’t correct her – I told her she was right. I asked if she was willing to make an agreement with me – to work on listening and acting nicer.
Each day if she acted nicely she’d get a smiley face and once she earned five smiley faces she’d get her sandals back. Since I also needed to listen and be nicer, I explained that I had to follow the same rules she did. I’d “grade” her each night and she’d “grade” me using a sad or happy face system. She told me that if I got a sad face I’d have to lose a shoe. I agreed. She demanded that she get to pick out which shoe. I agreed again.
She seemed pretty happy about our arrangement and we shook on it. For the first time all week it seemed, we hugged and left each other full of smiles, tender touches and all the feely-good feels.
Our system worked. She didn’t say no to every request I asked of her. I worked on speaking calmly and kindly. If I ever started to raise my voice, she’d remind me of our agreement.
“Mom, I think you might lose a shoe today.”
“No way. Not today, babe!” I’d reply as I held up my hand for a high five.
By the end of the five days, she earned her sandals back and I kept all of my shoes. We celebrated with ice cream.
So far, our nicer habits have continued without continuing our charting. Here’s hoping they stay that way for awhile – and if either of us need some smiley’s to promote positive behavior – the other will be there to go along for the ride.