If I were a kid I’d be a naughty one. Curious, relentless, tireless, and always in motion. Why is it that these traits which have arguably helped me to become successful are the very ones that I’m trying to stop my girls from having? Who started this notion that quiet kids are the ‘good’ ones because my girls are anything but, they’re just like Mike and I and then some. We call it ‘muchness’ because everything they do it’s done at a 10. Having pizza for dinner? That deserves some loud singing and an accompanying dance. Don’t like the outfit I chose for you? It’s a total stand off. A few weeks ago we were an hour late getting Harper to school because of the jeans and sweater combo I picked out. Later at pick up I found her in loaner clothes from her teacher who said “She doesn’t like jeans. Stop putting her in them, my girls don’t wear them either.” Point taken. Ultimately, who cares if she wears jeans? I like to wear what I feel comfortable and happy in, so why is it a surprise that she has opinions that are just as strong? Most of the time her little butt crack is showing as the jeans start to sink while she spends the day playing on the ground anyway, so that one I’ve let go. For years I thought those moms I saw at the mall with kids dressed like Punky Brewster were just lazy, now I know they’re geniuses with happy, calm houses in the morning. Just like mine is now.
Fashion selections aside, Harper has single-handedly exposing my biggest weakness as a mom- parenting out of embarrassment rather than actual necessity. Harper is one of the smartest people I know- adults included. She’s intuitive and her capacity for learning is much greater than I can sometimes feed. She’ll remember the slightest details from months or years ago for things that I’ve long forgotten. Maybe it’s this adult trait that makes me feel like she’s much older than her newly 4 years, her birthday is actually today. When she’s feeling as though something isn’t right, she feels it so immediately and so deeply that if it’s not acknowledged, she’ll raise to the level she needs to until it’s resolved and she’s feeling safe. Of course some of it is kid stuff that needs to be parented, but that isn’t what I’m talking about. I’m talking about that other 90% of the time when she’s really just feeling something that she can’t articulate like fear, anger, and frustration- those are big emotions for adults to deal with, and often times we get it all wrong too. When I’m at my best I can redirect her and foresee when she’s starting to bubble up, but when I’m feeling tired, overwhelmed, or embarrassed when we’re around other people I can be completely tone deaf to her so I try to shut the behavior down without seeing what’s lurking behind it. This is when I’m at my absolute worst as a mom. It’s those moments when I can see in her eyes that I don’t ‘get’ her, that I’m letting her down, and that she’s scared. Why is it that when I’m feeling tired, cranky, or just ‘off’ that everyone is supposed to understand that I’m just having ‘one of those days,’ but our expectations of our kids are so high that there’s no room for error?
What Harper’s challenging days have taught me is to question who I want my girls to be. Do I want militant kids who make choices out of fear and habit, or do I want free thinking sweet spirits who can someday foster their own career paths as both of their parents have? If I don’t let them start to question and make choices on their own, how will they ever learn this? But asking them to question includes them questioning me of course and that’s a slippery slope and damaging to the ego. It takes me to that insecure place because as their parent, leader, and emotional compass, I have to admit that sometimes I’m wrong. I’m actually wrong a lot and when I am I tell my kids ‘I’m sorry.’
I don’t like those moments when I’ve apologized to my kids for forcing them to wear something they didn’t want to, or when I’m impatient or short tempered with them when they’re just being little and unaware of my timeline and never-ending list of things to do. For a long time I felt like the apology negated the overall message of ‘don’t do that’ which I thought was the biggest point to make. (It’s not.) I don’t like to compare my girls because they aren’t opposite, they’re just completely different people like you and I are, but my Harper has been my greatest challenge and my greatest teacher all at the same time. I look at her and my heart fills with pride because I know how far we’ve both come in the 4 years since she made me a mom. Her convictions are unwavering and she digs her heels in when she feels something in her gut, a trait I’ve tried to sharpen over the years for myself that I now never deny. I’m beginning to think about what I truly want from her as a person long term instead of just ‘stop doing this now before everyone thinks I’m a horrible mom.’ If making dirt angels brings out her infectious giggle, then flutter on. And even if other little girls are staying clean and their moms think I’m crazy for letting it happen, I’ll try my best to let her little spirit grow. Hopefully mine will too.
You won’t lag behind, because you’ll have the speed.
You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.
Wherever you fly, you’ll be best of the best.
Wherever you go, you will top all the rest. – Dr. Seuss