Hindsight Parenting: Lessons From Children
Knowing Me. Knowing You.
I scrapped the column that I had been writing all week, (ah…I’ll post it another time), because of the “ah ha” moment that I had while trick or treating with my daughter, Ila, last week. Sometimes it isn’t Hindsight that teaches me, it’s my own child. This won’t be a surprise for most parents, however I think that it is to me because I was NEVER open to that while raising my sons. So I suppose, Hindsight had a hand, in helping with knowing to look for those moments of learning that I cherish now so as a mom. A child can teach so much to the uptight adults of the world if we would just be on the lookout for the lessons…
The realization of yesterday’s lesson started out early in the day. It was my girl’s first Halloween parade at her school. The halls were packed with grandparents, neighbors, uncles and aunts all anticipating the absolute adorableness of costumed three and four year olds. Two of those guests in the hallway were actually there to see another child but were connected to my daughter in the past…before they disowned her merely for the reason that she was our daughter (But that is a whole DIFFERENT column.). I became instantly fearful for her, worrying that she’d recognize them and feel completely rejected by the coldness that emanated from them. I wanted to throw a sheet over her head every time we had to walk by them or near them or around them. I spent the entire parade fretting. After all, a parade, I was taught, was a chance to show off your fabulosity, to look out at the audience saying, “Here I am. Look at me!” But, Ila is not me. Ila hasn’t learned what I was taught. Ila is her own person, and…(READY, HERE COMES THE LESSON LEARNED)…therefore I shouldn’t be reacting as if she and I are one in the same. Knowing my child, knowing who she is should be my guide as a parent and NOT the other way around.
This idea of needing to stop parenting from MY experiences came as we discussed the parade a little later.
Me: So what did you think of the parade?
Her: It was so fun, Mom.
Me: Did you see anyone you knew in the halls?
Her: Well I saw all my friends and you holding my hand and Daddy walking next to me.
Me: Anyone else, I mean besides the people in your class. How about the people along the halls, did you see anyone you knew?
Her: Mom, I was so happy to be with my friends. I didn’t look at the people in the hall.
MIND-BLOWN. LESSON LEARNED.
But…I can be a bit thick headed and so it takes me a few reps to have a lesson really sink in. Luckily there were many more teachable moments throughout the evening. Take for instance this one: We approach the second trick or treat house of the night. She rings the doorbell and a teen boy answers the door in all his gory glory; a bloody mask, torn clothes and a grunt and a growl to go with it. Feeling the panic that I usually experience when a PREVIEW of a horror film comes on TV or even the SOUND of it on the radio, I instantly took Ila by the hand and tried to turn her. She vigorously shook me off and said sweetly, “Trick or Treat.” The boy’s eyes softened behind the vicious mask and he plopped two pieces of candy into her fluorescent green pumpkin candy basket. As soon as she received the candy, I whisked her down the two steps, but stopped my hurried hustle at the end of the driveway. I squatted in front of my little monster in green and asked, “Were you scared at that last house? He was scary wasn’t he?” I furrowed my eyebrows, looked concerned and waited for her response.
“Um mom,” she huffed, “didn’t you KNOW that that was just a boy in a mask? Masks aren’t scary at all. Let’s go to this house!” And with that she dashed down the street. As rain pelted her face, she squealed with joy all the way while I was left holding an umbrella that perhaps shielded me from the pelting rain but not the realization that my daughter was growing in age and maturity at lightning speed.
However, as some of you know, it takes me awhile to acclimate to a new piece of knowledge or life lesson and so it took one more incident for it to truly sink in that my responses to Ila had to start changing from thoughts of ME to thoughts of who SHE is. To get out of the drenching rain and gale like wind, we decided to finish our night at the local mall where the stores give out candy to throngs of children year after year. At one particular store the line was long, but Ila insisted on waiting in it. So we got behind some tough looking zombies that towered over me. Tattoos lined their necks and arms. Spikes adorned their leather clothes and heavy boots covered their feet. One, a woman, had on a truly hideous mask put on professionally with latex so that it looked as if the bloody nose, flesh-exposed cheeks and very long black tongue that hung to the center of her neck was as realistic as my own face. The terror I experienced looking upon her was fierce. I realized later that this look was the stuff that terrorists wore in movies or on TV right before they killed or maimed dozens and perhaps it was my experiences with those images that caused me to revile the woman standing in front of me in line.
So, once again, but this time certain that when the woman turned around to admire the cuteness of my daughter in her costume, Ila would be terrified of the sight before her, I grabbed her around the shoulders and drew her in close. Once again, however, that daughter of mine surprised me. It was not a look of terror that she had on her face at all. Oh no. Not terror one bit. What was my daughter doing as she looked upon this hideous face with a long dead tongue hanging from it? Why she was sticking her tongue out right back at it, over and over and over. The tongue went out. The tongue went in. The woman chuckled and began waving her head back and forth so that the dead tongue swung back and forth. They both synced their tongue movements and entertained quite a few people waiting in line with their antics.
As we walked away after picking up her piece of candy Ila said, “That was quite a tongue and she was quite a girl, wasn’t she mom?” And as the lessons full weight descended upon me, I nodded my head and replied, “Yup. Quite a girl, Ila. Quite-a-girl.”
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.