Hindsight Parenting: Meet Your Child Where They Are
Who She Is Is Just Fine With Me
I have been working against my daughter, Ila, under the guise of “improvement” and the misguided statement “she must be able to do such and such in order to be successful.” I have been working against her, which in turn has been sending her a message that she is not good enough just the way she is, which, of course, is not a message I want to send her at all.
Confused? Let me give you an instance: Ila gets anxiety everyday before going into her kindergarten class. When the door opens, and the teacher steps out, she buries her face into my legs, or if I am squatting down at her level she grips my hair or scarf with a vice-like hold. I have to peel her off me by prying her fingers open and kind of giving her a loving pat on the bottom towards the classroom while her chin quivers as if I am torturing her. This, as you can imagine, is agonizing each day, and so I decided that as her mom, I needed to “right” it, fix it, and make it so the anxiety was gone. I decided to start with a good heart to heart conversation.
“Ila,” I said, “you need to stop crying and stalling at the classroom door every morning.” Her head instantly tilted toward the floor. She started humming loudly. I continued. “You need to remember that Ms. Bachman is just one of the most wonderful teachers. You need to try and think about all the fun you had the day before. You need to try.”
So…not too bad. It’s the kind of conversation that has probably taken place in one million houses over the years. Heck, I have had that kind of conversation with my sons about different anxieties at least 20 times in the past. But this time, something happened that made me rethink. Ila, in response to my heart-to-heart, looked up directly at me and said two simple words;
And the fierceness with which she said it stopped me in my tracks. “I need?” Need? Did she need–to change? To buck it up? To figure this all out? To be different? Surely, anxiety isn’t good for her, but was I approaching it in a detrimental way? There must have been a better way to approach her…to meet her…where she was at the time.
There’s this great quote attributed to Theodore Roosevelt that says, “Do what you can, with what you have, where you are” and I think that these are some very wise wonderful words for parents indeed. When our children encounter difficulties, when they run into brick walls or have a problem that needs to be solved, we need to meet them where they are, help them grow with what they already have in a way that they can.
So I tried again the next day with Ila. After a particularly rough morning at the kindergarten door, I sat on her bed that night and said, “Ila, I know that mornings have been hard for you.” She shyly shook her head. “First of all, I want you to know that that is perfectly fine. Everyone gets nervous about different things even mommies and daddies. It is so incredibly fine to be nervous.” Her purple-glasses twinkled at me as I continued. “Because I have certainly felt nervous before, I know that until it goes away, it can really feel horrible.” At this she nodded, silver barrette slipping down her silky hair as she did.
“Can I tell you what I do?” I asked. Her eyes brightened. “I try to figure out why I am feeling nervous. Would you like me to help you to do that?” She did.
So for the next few minutes, my daughter and I went through a series of questions and answer trying to figure out the root of her nerves. She was thorough in her thoughts and came up with two very solid answers:
- She was afraid that there’d be a fire drill and she hated the noise.
- She just liked being with mom and dad.
After discovering the roots of the problem, mama gave her some strategies I tell my own students who don’t like fire drills. First it is, of course, absolutely normal to not like the loud annoying noise of the alarm. We discussed the virtues of a flat-palm to the ear versus a finger in the ear. We tried both methods and she found the finger-in-ears better suited her. However, the second reason proved more difficult when it came to strategies and help. I admitted that to her.
“Ila, I totally get that you like being together as a family. I do too. This is a hard problem to solve because we can’t just stop going to school, me and you. I miss you horribly during the day, but I keep reminding myself that I will see you soon. Sometimes problems don’t have perfect solutions. Do you think that you can try doing what I do?” Ila shook her head and jumped off the bed. The conversation was over.
Is the problem solved? No. She still grips and grabs in the morning, and I gently remind her of the ear-covering solution and tell her I can’t wait to see her at the end of the day. It helps…some. But she is where she is…and is doing what she can…with what she has, with the help of her mother. And who she is, is just fine with me.
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 on the fifth Tuesday of the month.