Baby Steps

SO I told you about renewing our efforts to parent gently and patiently. With empathy. Sans coercion.

Oh my god, it worked. One day, one incident, but it worked.

I picked him up at the preschool the other day and he was, as I arrived, kicking his best friend in the head. Yup. Glorious. Exactly what I was looking for in a carefully and thoughtfully parented child. A teacher was handling it so I took a breath and waited for him. Another parent told me he’d had a rough day. I wanted to read him the code of “we don’t hurt people” but I fought the urge. Someone had already done that.

So I asked what was going on. I got nastiness and barking and snapping. I breathed. We collected his lunchbox and shoes. I asked about his day. Barked nasty snapping. I asked what he wanted for snack. Snapped nasty barks. He had a cut over his eye and I asked how it happened.

“Nothing. My eye just comes this way,” he snapped.
“Honey, that looks like it hurts. Does it?”
“NO!” he barked. “This is how my eye always comes.”
I looked at him, buckled his seat belt and wordlessly, gently, closed the car door. I took a breath in my patented breathing machine (the slow walk around a car when the children are locked inside it).

By the time I sat in the driver’s seat, he said, “Fine, I’ll tell you.”

“In the morning Casey did something not nice—he took from me when we were playing Zingo—and I went away from him to play with Miles but we were playing and [he starts crying] I tried to go in the tunnel but I hit my head and hurt my eye and I didn’t like the snack and nobody was there to kiss my sore and I didn’t have any extra long pants I only had short pants for when I got muddy!”

I looked at him in the mirror. “Babe, that sounds just awful. Do you need a hug?”

He was sobbing by now and sputtered out a “yeah.”

I stopped the car and got out, walked around to his side, opened the door and kissed his eye. I hugged him. He cried. And I told him about how some days nothing goes right. I bit back the urge to talk about Alexander and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

Because some days you don’t want to hear about that. Even in Australia.

But what you do want to hear, when you’re an ass to your friend and your teachers and your mom, is that some days are like that. It’s not that you are a nasty person. It’s the days, hours, minutes that suck. Not you, little guy. It’s not you.

(Only because it was so out of character. If I saw this kind of nonsense all the time, we’d talk about a new way to roll with this behavior. But because I took a breath and a step back and didn’t correct him or diagnose him or try to fix him, he let his guard down and let me see the tiny little vulnerable dude inside. Oh, now that’s the dude I can help. And maybe one day, he’ll help a little vulnerable dude, too.)

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14 thoughts on “Baby Steps

  1. I think I would have needed to slow walk around the car for about a week, nonstop. And a valium truck.

    You get the whole sheet of stickers. They are my favorites, the puffy glittery rainbows.

  2. @Ink and Fie you seem a lot less surprised than I was. I’ve never been so calm. wtf? Maybe all this extra weight is good for me.
    @jc Shit, really? You know I love the puffy glittery rainbows. Even more than the scratch-n-sniff stickers. Well, at least the same as the scratch-n-sniff. Okay, more than *most* scratch-n-sniff but not more than the root beer.
    I mean…thank you. (Phew. See how giddy I get about stickers?) Feeling nice again is reward enough. But it’s sure a delightful offer. Thanks.

  3. Seriously? Awesome. I don’t think I would have had the self control, but having read what happens when you do, I just might give this a go. You did us proud!

  4. @Kitch I know, right? Not nice at all but reasonable from a flawed human
    @Maria I keep thinking that, too. If I had a day like he did and my God of Nurture yelled at me, I’d lose it. If my God of Nurture was gentle and listened I’d feel healed. Glad I did what I did.

  5. Well, my original comment to this post had a lot of exclamations about how I couldn’t believe that you’d managed to be so calm and collected, and how I would NEVER have been able to pull this off. But then I thought… well, focusing on the negative past isn’t really all that encouraging and, well, positive. So I deleted the whole thing and said “good job.” But you must know my internet alter ego a little too well. I was shitting myself. ;)

  6. Wow, you are amazing!! I’m not sure I would have had the self-control, which makes me sad. Every day is a learning opportunity, isn’t it?

  7. I’m commenting here late but wanted to say how much I appreciate hearing about this little moment. It helps so much to read concrete examples of such loving and respectful parenting – as much as I love the theory, it is often hard to remember that there might be all kinds of reasonable explanations for unreasonable behaviour in a 4-year-old. I’m trying to remember that as much as I can now. (Along with trying to find myself one of those patented breathing machines.)

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