Thursday, February 5, 2009

Parenting 101

Yesterday was one of those days that started out with a broken glass shattered across my kitchen floor and ended with kids antagonizing one another and generally acting like brats.

Yeah. Fun.

Finally, at 7:15, I’d had enough and declared it bedtime. I might have lost my temper just a little bit.

It was like I’d suggested we cancel a Disney vacation with the weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth that followed my proclamation. All of the munchkins collapsed into bawling heaps on the floor, just further evidence of the necessity of the early bedtime.

I calmly (ahem!) herded them upstairs and started the PJ/teeth/potty routine.

I got E into bed and then lay down with her as is our habit. We chatted briefly and then I kissed her and got up to leave. As I turned away, I heard a plaintive, "Mommy?"

"What, angel pie?"

"Why are you so crabby?"

I stopped in my tracks and did a mental head slap. The child didn’t even know what she’d done wrong. No wonder she was so upset.

As I went back and explained gently that it was her attitude and tone of voice and the way she was speaking to her sister, I wondered how many times I get upset with her and she doesn’t even know why. Isn’t that like Parenting 101?

When she was first born, I read the parenting books and very intentionally laid out my expectations and the consequences of good and bad behavior and did my best to follow through with firmness and love. With each successive child, I fear that I have regressed into knee-jerk parenting — reacting rather than responding. It’s so much easier to give into my short tempter and impatience when what the kids need is a loving, caring, thoughtful parent. (And unfortunately, I have a legendary, short temper.)

Last night was a wake-up call. I only have one chance. I don’t want to mess it up. It was a humbling experience.

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