There are some days—a lot of days, honestly—that I don’t so much talk with my daughter as have extended arguments with her. They usually start with her saying “I want this” or “I want to do this,” and when my reply is not to her liking suddenly she wants a whole raft of things I can’t say yes to and our entire conversation consists of her demands, my increasingly irritated replies, and her wails of outrage or bouts of patently faked crying.
We were having one of those not-conversations on the way back from school one day, and I was unusually aggrieved because I had planned an entire afternoon of ordinarily pleasant errands for us to do together, things we enjoyed, and I had already canceled most of them in my head because of her behavior in the car. The only one I couldn’t put off was the grocery, so I pulled into the parking lot there, already exhausted.
This particular grocery has bulk candy, and we usually get two or three pieces each when we’re done shopping. I could feel her attention as she fell silent, looking out the window at the store.
As I was unbuckling her, she said in a somewhat more reasonable voice than she’d been using, “Mommy… can I have some candy?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “You’ve been very bad so far. I don’t know that I want to give you candy when you’ve been so mean.”
“I promise to be good!” she said.
“You’d have to be very good,” I said. “And be very helpful in the grocery.”
“I will!” she promised, and I took her hand and led her into the store with great resignation.
There she was a model (mostly) of good behavior, putting produce in plastic bags for me and staying by my side or returning when I called her back. When we were done shopping, then, I let her pick out three candies: two Jordan almonds and one chocolate-covered pecan.
Walking out into the parking lot, she said, “I’m so glad I got my treat!”
“Me too,” I said. “But you know what?”
“What?” she asked, looking at her little bag.
“I didn’t get a treat for myself,” I said. “I got no treat!”
“Why didn’t you get a treat?” she asked, peering up at me.
Thinking of my increasingly short-tempered responses and mounting frustrations, I said, “I guess I didn’t think I was very good.”
“But you WERE good!” she protested.
“Do you really think so?” I asked her.
“Yes!” she said. “You’re the best mommy ever!”
“I’m glad you think so,” I said. “I think maybe I was a little bad. But it’s hard to be good all the time, isn’t it.”
“Yes,” she said solemnly as she climbed into the car and sat on her carseat. “But it’s OKAY, Mommy.”
“Really?” I said.
She nodded in sage innocence. “You just have to practice.”
So that’s my mother-mantra, and it came out of the mouth of my own child. Just keep practicing.
Happy Mother’s Day, all.
Mirrored from MCAH Online.