Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The trials of parenting

When my kids were little, in the newborn/age2/age4 range, Andrew would arrive home at the end of the day and ask, "How'd it go?" On particularly bad days my standard reply was a wry, "We're all still on this side of the window."

Today was that kind of day. I was a Good Mommy for a long, long time today. [Insert pat on back here.] I was calm and patient and detached. I made it serenely but firmly through several public meltdowns by a child of mine, and didn't crack even when this child writhed around on a crowded sidewalk screaming about how horrible I was. But after 90 minutes or so my patience wore thin. Then I was not very nice. [Remove pat from back here, and wag an accusing finger.]

We recovered for a while, due in part to my offer to "hold you without saying anything". The peace lasted a short train ride. When the fussing started up again, I was at my wits' end. I desperately needed this child to be quiet so I didn't go insane, but cooperation with a request for silence was not in the cards. So I suggested praying aloud for the length of a long city block, using a prayer that the child knew by heart. While I'd love to say I thought of this because I'm a deeply spiritual person, the truth is I just wanted something to listen to that wasn't hysteria. The child protested tearfully, "I can't even say that prayer!" However, I was given permission to go ahead and pray by myself.

I put my arm around the child's shoulder, and we adjusted our pace so we could walk together in rhythm to the prayer. I said the words over and over, slowly and calmly. They slowly seeped into our stubborn hearts, and our focus shifted away from hurt feelings and disobedience to better things. By the end of the block, life was much, much better.

Now the child and I are both left with the bouncing back portion of the day (see post below).

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