By Bill Corbett, author of the award-winning book series Love, Limits, & Lessons: A Parent’s Guide to Raising Cooperative Kids in English and in Spanish and member of the API Resource Advisory Committee, www.CooperativeKids.com.
It’s nearly Christmas, and I’m shopping at a department store. A woman in the aisle just ahead of me is pushing her shopping cart and begging her daughter to cooperate with her. The little girl appears to be about four or five years of age and is dragging her feet and whining that she’s too tired to walk. Her mom looks very tired and continues to plead with the child to keep moving. Suddenly the little girl collapses on the floor, and mom seems to be on the verge of “losing it.”
The woman picks up her daughter swiftly and sets her in the carriage. Once placed in the carriage, the little girl begins kicking her feet, and the crying begins. Soon she’s demanding to get out of the carriage, and her mom is doing everything in her power to hold back her anger. In that moment, I feel so bad for both of them and wish there was something I could do to help. Both mom and daughter are probably feeling the stress of shopping, the holidays and who knows what else.
I was a parent three times over and know exactly what that situation feels like. In situations when my children were small, I remember feeling stress from three things: the complexity of the family schedule that the holidays brought on, the fear that I might not have enough money (or credit) to pay for all the gifts I wanted to buy, and the conflict brought on when the magic I was trying to create for my children from my own childhood didn’t manifest itself to my satisfaction.
My children are all grown now and living productive lives. One of them gave me my two grandchildren, and I love seeing them get very excited about Christmas. Their mom has done a great job of making it happen. But if I could go back in time and do anything different, it would be to put more emphasis on being the person that I wanted them to become rather than trying to make everything so perfect.
Believe it or not, the story that I started this article with actually ended well. You see, the mother did a wonderful thing in that heated moment. She did not yell, she did not scold the little girl, and she did not “lose it.” The woman reached into the carriage and picked up her sobbing daughter without saying a word. She held her close to her chest and sat down on a sturdy display shelf. For a few moments, they just remained there, ignoring any of the people milling past them. The little girl cried on her mom’s shoulders, and the woman remained silent as she gently rocked back and forth.
If you ever find yourself ready to “lose it” with your child because you’re feeling tired or stressed, or because things just aren’t turning out as you had envisioned, stop and take a deep breath before you act or speak. See your child as just a child and forgive him or her, then forgive yourself. Acknowledge the stress you may be feeling from the season or other factors, and hold your child a little closer. Give your child the powerful gift of seeing what unconditional love looks and feels like.