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August 10, 2011

Learning to be a better parent

Before I had kids, I had an ideal image of what I would be like as a parent. When I saw kids misbehaving in public, I often wondered why the parents did not do anything to stop the temper tantrums and I would quietly whisper to myself that my children would be better than that.

Well, then I had kids ... I love my kids more than anything else in the world and I will gladly die for them if asked, but boy was I wrong about rising the perfect children who never misbehave. When DD went through her terrible two's, that was a very interesting period in parenting for us. We definitely hit some low points. Luckily, terrible two's was just a tiny part of what having kids is all about. We survived it and even learned from it.

Unfortunately for us, there is no handbook on how to raise kids. Many parents often ask their kids to behave in a way that fits the standards and expecting of what prefect children should be -- cheerful, grateful, loving and so forth, but how many of us try to be the perfect parents? Before I had kids, I had images of what they would be like, but I did not have a clear view of myself as a parent. Sure, I had expectations, but that very expectation was reflected through the lens of what the ideal children would be like.

Last Friday, my friend Nancy and I took the kids to the mall. We bought the girls some Little Mermaid lip gloss compact cases from the Disney store. I told DD that she could not open it until we got home. Nancy's little girl opened her's while we were still at the mall. The moment DD saw that her friend got to open her new toy, DD began to whine. In order to avoid any arguments, I opened the toy for DD. Literally less than a minute after I opened it, she dropped it on the ground and it shattered into pieces. Immediately, she was upset. She asked me to buy her a new one. I commented that it was not possible because she should have been more responsible and if she could not keep her own toy intact, then she did not deserve it. She started to cry hysterically. I knew at that point I had to end the playdate. I told her we were leaving. She did not want to leave so she began yelling at me at the top of her lungs while crying at the same time. For the 5 minutes it took for us to walk back to the car, I was that mom. Yes, that mom.... I did the walk of shame back to my car. Some people might have looked at me with pity, while others might have wondered how was it that I could lose control of my 5 year old daughter so quickly.

Completely mortified, I told DD to get in the car and buckled up while I loaded baby G into his car seat. I got into the driver seat and as I looked at her face from the rear mirror, I saw how truly upset she was. With tears running down her face, she screamed, "I am sorry, mommy!" I had a moment of clarity. When I became upset at the way she behaved, I never tried to put myself in her shoes, not even for a single second. What it must have been like for a little girl who just accidentally broken her toy to be dragged away from her playmate? I realized I over-reacted.

I turned the car engine off and we had a quick chat in the mall parking lot. As calmly as possible, I explained that I was upset for a couple of reasons. First of all, I expected her to be more careful with her toys. Second, I wanted her to appreciate everything she gets in life. I am very fearful that I might be raising a child who expects everything to be handed to her on a silver platter. My family was very poor when I was growing up and that experience shaped my view of life and material goods. I want to be able to provide for her in ways that my parents could not, but I still wanted her to understand that those things are only available to her because we worked hard for them. However, I realized that I was also wrong. I apologized to her for being annoyed with her when she broke her toy. I told her that I realized it was an accident. After our little chat, I took her back to the store and got her a replacement.

From this event I learned a few things about myself as a parent. I think like some parents out there, I demands a lot out of my kids, but I am not demanding enough of myself as a parent. I want them to do their best and try their best every moment of every day, but am I doing and trying my best as a parent every moment of everyday too? It is easy to say that" Well, I would never do that or do this if I was the parent." But before you judge another parent for their parenting skills, remember that it is easy to say things than actually acting upon those words. It is easier to imagine yourself in their situation and how you would behave if you were the parent because it's easy to do the right things on your best days. In other words, before you think that another parent is not showing great parenting skills, imagine how you would behave in that situation on your worst day and not your best day. Because every parent can be patient, loving and wonderful on their best days. But how would you react on your worst day? If you are the parent, pause for a second and try see situation through your child's eyes. It might surprised you. I know it surprised me.

I know that I am not the perfect parent. I am a very flawed person. I have faults because after all, I am only human. I am very aware of that. But, what happened at the mall reminded me of my role as a mother. From now on, I am going to always try to see things through my kids' eyes, no matter how hard that might be for me. When I demand my children to be better, I am also going to demand myself to be better. For me, this is the only way grow with my children as they age. I will live, I will learn and I will try to be a better parent every day.

In case you are wondering, DD got her replacement toy and she had been taking excellent care of it. As we headed home that afternoon, she voluntarily apologized for yelling and screaming at the mall. She also told me that she loved me. My second revelation of the day was that she was truly a loving and wonderful child. Although I still have a lot to learn about parenting, I was happy to know that I was not doing a horrible job after all.


Angela (Library Girl Reads) said...

Great post! We had a very rough start to our day around here so this was really something I needed to read.

Tabathia said...

I really enjoyed this post and it made me reflect to the days before I became a mom and what I remember was thinking when a child misbehaves in the store was actually their behavior. I don't expect kids not to throw tantrums or to cry in the store, they are "Kids" after all, but what I didn't like was that many showed disrespect to their parents by talking back or using bad language or hitting or kicking their parents. Those of the things that make me look at the parent in disbelief if they are allowing this behavior and making excuses for the child while they are doing it.

Bonnye said...

awww love this post! Thanks for the insight- I think I will have to remember to put myself in my daughter's shoes, when we get there. :-)

Karrieann said...

If there was a manual for us parents, it would be invalid! We have to go through life and learn on our own from experiences. We watch and learn.

I had an experience similar to yours at the mall. It was not only frustrating but also frightful! My two DD were playing in a store called Imaginartium. They cater to kids and have some on hands toys for them to test out and play with. The DD had 30 minutes and we, the parents gave advance warning that we'll be going in five minutes. Five minutes later,, DD#1 age5 left the toys without incident. DD#2 age 2 did not want to go yet. Once again we said it was time. She ignored us and her father picked her up and we left the store. DD#1 and I were holding hands. DD#2 began to scream and kick while her father held her by his shoulder. Then FEAR hit me as I heard that child of mine scream these words "LET ME GO, YOU"RE NOT MY MOMMY AND DADDY" out loud. Now mind you, this was Christmas season, the mall packed with many many shoppers ...and we happened to be parked down the opposite end of the mall! I was saying to myself as we walked calmly as possible, "How in the world can I PROVE that the screaming Brat (I dearly LOVE her) is truly mine?" I didn't carry her birth certificate with me. This was in early 80's.

We all have grown and learned, boy am I so THANKFUL! Moments like these only last a little while. Cherish the learning moments, tough ones too.

Thank you for sharing your moments!

Mrs.Smitty said...

You sparked a nerve for me. I'm dealing with a 2yo who is going through a multitude of roller coaster emotions! And like you stated, I'm guilty of being demanding of my children but not demanding enough of myself as a parent. It's extremely hard for me to stop, breathe and look at the situation from her point of view.

Dani and Jay said...

I love this. I also grew up quite poor and while I want to give my girls all the things I would have enjoyed as a child but did not have, I am afraid they won't appreciate anything if they get everything. I think it's wonderful that you put yourself in her place though.

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