Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Regrets in parenting

Do you ever wonder if what you did as a parent in a specific situation was the right thing? When you are laying in bed at night thinking about your day, do you find yourself questioning yourself at times? Did I say the right thing? Did I react too quickly? Did I not react enough? What lesson did I teach them, and was it a valuable lesson to teach? Am I proud of how I acted? More importantly, are my kids going to be proud of me looking back on these days as they get older?

I think that's a natural thing. As parents. To question ourselves, to wonder, to even possibly have regrets and guilt over the decisions that we make in our children's lives. Isn't that just part of human nature; to make mistakes. I think so. And not only do I think it's natural, and happens often, but I also believe that it is okay.

And then there are situations where people write about in articles and parenting books that say that a certain behavior is not okay, and yet you, as a parent, does the said behavior and is left satisfied. No regrets, no guilt, but actually content and happiness with the decision that you made.

I know, this is starting to sound a little twisted and evil.

Hear me out here.

Let me give you a little background on my little man. My little man is two, he's my little dare-devil, will try anything, not scared of a single thing, loves to cause trouble, but the sweetest soul on earth kind of little guy. He will throw balls at you, and kiss you and say all the I-love-you's all in one minute, and make your heart melt to pieces. I truly cannot ever get mad at him. I don't know what's wrong with me, but he just doesn't anger me. And trust me, he's done some extraordinary things for a two year old.

That being said, we have coddled him most of his life {ha, he's just two}. Just like we did with my oldest, because well, that part about "attachment-parenting" made sense to me. Okay, coddling is such a negative term and not one commonly used to describe attachment parenting, but it is what it is and sounded most appropriate in this specific scenario.

For us, it is important to foster a close relationship with our children and to allow them to be equal human beings in our home. We do that crazy co-sleeping business, breast-feeding until 2, baby-wearing, carry you around everywhere type of deal when they are babies, and we continue that as they get older.  We want our children to always feel open to come to us, to trust us, and to know that we would literally do anything for them to protect them in anyway possible. But, we also set limits and rules as they get older. As they are able to communicate more and have a better understanding about the world they live in, we use certain moments to be learning experiences.

And one of those moments happened to be a few weeks ago when I was picking Elli up at preschool. A typical, bright and early Monday morning. As I got out of the car, Graham insisted on being carried in inside—just as he does when we go anywhere. Feeling queasy {pregnant}, tired, and completely smothered, I explained to him "just until we go inside, and then you walk like a big boy." And so we did just that, and I set him down immediately as we walked through the door. He wasn't pleased. He threw a "mini-tantrum," and refused to walk. I kept walking and then he followed. He briefly got distracted by some toys he saw, and then asked to be carried again as we made our way downstairs. With stairs involved, I obliged, but explained again that when we got back up that he would have to walk out.

We got back up, and as we neared the doors, I set him back down. And then the real tantrum came. We are talking full blown tears, screaming, throwing himself on the ground, "Mama, mama, mama, carry me" tantrum. I explained to him very gently that mama already explained to him that he would have to walk like a big boy, that I did not feel well, and that I have to follow through with what we talked about. He continued to cry, walk behind us slowly and in-between throwing himself down, but he continued.

That is until we stepped outside.

And then it was just him being the little stubborn bold-headed child that I know so well. He wasn't moving and he was going to make himself known as the hundreds of people walked out he doors. So I explained to him that I would sit at the bottom steps on the bench and wait for him for when he was ready.

He was never ready.

Let me tell you when I say that kid doesn't give him, he sure as heck doesn't give him. I think this trait will take him far in life, but it sure wasn't helping the situation in that moment in time.

So here is where my dilemma came in as I sat on the bench thinking of what to do next. If I carried him to the car {tantrum and all}, I would be giving in to his demand and the only lesson learned by him is that in the future he just has to make the biggest scene ever and that would get me to do what he wanted. And that, well that, was not going to happen. And if I just let him stand there and cry, then we could be there for hours, and surely the police would be called for this public disturbance that my child was causing.

And so, I did what any good parent would do.

I stood behind him, and taught him how to walk like you do a baby who is taking their first steps. Held his arms and said "Okay little guy, let's walk."

And in between walking, there continued the screaming as well as swinging of the legs up in the air so that he could refuse to walk. But I tell you what, we made it. We made it to the car, and we had a long talk {I did the talking}. I explained that I loved him, that I'm not mad at him, but that he was going to be a big boy and walk when mama asks him to walk, and that would begin with our park date that we were heading to.

We went to the park, and he walked. We went to the store, and he walked. We went to preschool that following Monday, and he walked. Both drop-off and pick-up. Not a single fuss, no tears, and not even a single request. He walked, and he did it as though he was just as proud as he can be of himself.

And looking back on this day, I can honestly say that I had not a single regret in my parenting decision. I know I broke the attachment-parenting rules, all the nurturing mothers are probably cringing at the thought of this situation, and the experts and psychologists would say that I have ruined my child in one way or another, but yet, I have no regrets.

It would be easier for me to have just picked him up and carried him. It would have been easier to just wait this whole stage of wanting to be carried around out {it could go on for years}, and I know that eventually he would have outgrown it. But? I wold have been unhappy about it every step of the way. And I want my children to be a happy mother. And if I'm unhappy about a decision that experts say that I should be making for my children, and if it doesn't feel right to cater to them when I don't feel they need to be catered, then why would I do it. Are experts always right? Can one scenario be applied to all children? How certain are we about this life that we live?

What does this all mean? It means that at times, in this whole parenting gig, there will be lessons learned that won't be easy {for neither of us}, and that we are in this thing together. Learning what works and what doesn't, what's easy or what's hard, and how to best make decisions out of love, not out of parenting books and articles.

So yes, there are lots of days where I have said or reacted in ways I wasn't proud of. Moments that made me reflect and moments that made me grow as a mother. Dare I say, moments that even made me a better mother. But I can tell you that for every not-so-good moment, there have been 100 great parenting moments to top it.

It's so easy for us to dwell on the bad, to question, and to have regret. But I tell you right now, no matter what we read online or in books, it's not nearly as powerful as what we hold as truth in our hearts.

1 comment:

  1. We constantly told my daughter that when she turned 3, she would have to walk like a big girl. She was into it... until it happened. But I'm getting pretty large, and carrying a lanky 3 year old (though still light and tiny) is hard on me. She throws her tantrums. It's hard because you just want to scoop them up. But I'll take the tantrum over this if it means she just wants to be held, and that later in life she trusts me and we have a good bond.


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