Hindsight Parenting: Doing Things Differently
The Dreaded Happened Last Night
The dreaded happened last night. A usually very easy-going-as-long-as-you-do-my-routine-I’ll-go-to-bed, Ila was not easy going at all. Last night, I heard the creaking of our hall floor at around 9pm, which meant that Ila, for the first time since being in her big girl bed, had ventured out of it at a forbidden hour. I immediately stepped out of my bedroom and using my sternest “mommy” voice I said, “Stop right there, miss. What do you think you are doing? It is WAYYY past your bed time. Turn around and go right back to bed.”
What happened next stunned me; that typically compliant daughter of mine didn’t turn around but instead a look of pain came across her face instantly and she began the heart piercing kind of cry where she is so upset that nothing comes out over her mouth. Do you know that kind of cry?? Her mouth kind of opened and her face contorted, tears streamed down her face and she kind of did this gaspy hiccup thing in which her chest moved up and down soundlessly as well.
I immediately regretted my mom tone and scooped her up. As I traveled down the hallway to my bedroom, Hindsight began to whisper that this may be one of those situations which I had failed miserably in my past parenting-a-toddler life. Instead of resisting its voice I listened intently to see if it could give me any guidance with my now sobbing daughter sitting on my lap in the rocking chair.
As usual, looking back on familiar situations spoke volumes to me and I recalled many many times where my sons were acting out of sorts or unlike themselves. As a young mom, I think I focused on the behavior trying to shut that down…to teach a lesson. “We don’t scream and throw a fit every morning before school.” “We don’t say that we hate another child.” “We don’t forget our homework at school every day!”
Focusing on the behavior however didn’t get me far and unfortunately I learned the hard way to realize that an out of the ordinary behavior is most certainly linked to something…in other words, if your child is acting out or being unpredictable somehow, there is something behind it. It is our jobs as mommies and daddies to find out what it is. Not that is not to say that kids just don’t want to go to bed at night—simple as that. But the severity of Ila’s reaction made the red flags go up.
So after rocking and soothing her, I spoke softly and said, “Can you use words and tell me why you got out of bed.” And, as she quite often does, she surprised me by nodding her head and clearly communicating that she was scared to go to school. (I must tell you here that I think that I am so used to things not going right on my parenting journey that I am caught off guard every time Ila does something in a way that seems reasonable. I know…so sad, and says volumes about my life as a mom the first time around, but I never tire of the satisfaction I feel when my daughter does something seemingly within the normal realms of reactions.)
She was scared to go to school, and really this is every parent’s nightmare isn’t it? At least in my world, that dreaded phrase sets off a litany of images, none of which are pleasant or show that my child’s feelings are erroneous. So, true to form, I immediately imagined the teachers spanking the children, yelling at Ila, not helping her open her lunch so that she feel like she’s starving during the day, not allowing her the comfort of her stuffed lamb at naptime…my thoughts ran the gamete.
However Hindsight reminded me to be calm, as losing my mind in front of my children had never paid off, and so I calmly asked why she was feeling scared. Once again, the communicative Ila clearly stated that she didn’t like the yelling. And once again, I had to reign in my tendency to want to go in to preschool guns a blazin’ taking no prisoners along the way. So the new calm inquisitive mother asked Ila to tell her about the yelling. She described a scene in which one of her friends hit another one of her friends and so the teacher yelled for the perpetrator to sit on the rug. I smiled and cooed and then gently tried to explain the best way that I could to a three year old that if a child is hurting another child then the adult in charge is going to use a voice that has a bit of scariness in it because she doesn’t want that child to do it again.
Somehow, Hindsight whispered to me to not dwell so much on this topic too long but instead remind her of what she loved about going there. So we sat there in the dark rocking and hugging and listing all of her friends’ names and the things she did with each that were an essential part of her day. And in no time, she was her happy self, ready for bed and to bound off to school the next day.
You would think that putting her back to bed with a smile on her face would give this mom such a feeling of satisfaction, but I have to admit that each time Hindsight intervenes and I learn well from my past, I have a bit of melancholy mixed in with the happiness. Sitting back down in my rocking chair, I couldn’t help but feel wistful about those once young boys of mine and the opportunities missed. Had I known what I know now, I would have known that the screaming fits in the morning were due to a fear of reading in front of the class because of a growing reading disability. I would have known that the “hatred” for another child was because that child was pummeling my son on the playground every day at recess…for two years. I would have known that the forgotten homework every day at school was due to a completely lost math student who just wanted to forget about what he didn’t understand when he got home…just wanted to forget the taunting he was facing daily by the teacher teaching the class. Perhaps, if I knew then what I knew now, things would be different. What things you ask? Oh, that’s a subject for another column.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Logan has lived in Glens Falls, NY all her life. By day, she is an educator with 20 years experience, a mom to Aidan and Gannan, her two teenage boys, a new mommy to a beautiful daughter, Ila, and wife to the love of her life, Jeffrey. By night, weekends and any spare time she can find, Logan writes. She loves memoir and also adores writing essays about the challenges of parenthood. This year she started a parenting blog called A Muddled Mother, an honest place where mothers aren’t afraid to speak of the complications and difficulties that we all inevitably experience. Logan has been published in various children’s and parenting magazines including Today’s Motherhood, Eye on Education, Faces, and Appleseed. Logan’s previous column for Hilltown Families, Snakes and Snails: Teenage Boys Tales ran bi-monthly from June 2010-Feb. 2011, sharing stories of her first time around as a parent of two teenage boys. — Check out Hindsight Parenting: Raising Kids the Second Time Around every first and third Tuesday of the month.
[Photo credit: (ccl) Russ Morris]