I am certainly not immune to the occasional ( or frequent) parenting fopaux. But, I have been sitting on a truly stellar parenting moment for a few months now wondering if I should share it with all of you.
Let me set the scene: A few months ago a dear friend of mine, her three-year-old daughter, my four-year-old daughter and I went to Disney world. There were many moments of great fun, but we took a three and a four-year-old so of course there were some not so great moments. Among them was my daughter running away from me at Epcot and hiding in the bushes ( lucky for me she stormed off so loudly that I could follow her screams). I crouched down and tried to talk to her only to realize that from the perspective of people walking by my daughter wasn’t visible. So on our last night at Disney, I became the crazy woman outside the park talking to the bushes- the person that other parents pulled their kids in closer to keep away from.
Wanting to make the most of our trip, we decided to extend the vacation to visit my mom. We stayed with her a few days before and after the Disney trip. By the time we got back to my mom’s I was beyond exhausted. I rarely give my daughter sugar and the Disney trip reminded me why. Sharing a bed and two plane rides with her were not among my favorite moments of the trip. Before the trip she had been experiencing some behavior issues. We never really had the terrible 2s with her, but we were definitely experiencing what our doctor has dubbed “ the fuckin 4s. “
Anyone who knows me knows I would not be classified as a patient person. I really only like noise when I am making it and I get sensory overload really easily. So, the first night back from the trip I spent some time with friends in the area to regroup and let my mom and daughter hang out. When I got back, she still wasn’t sleeping. I was just going to leave it alone. I was going to crash on the couch. But, my mom insisted I share the bed with my daughter. Aimee wasn’t in the mood for sharing the bed either. I really can’t blame her. But, I was too tired to argue so I asked her to scoot over and share the bed. Well, apparently it is incredibly insulting to her to be asked to sleep on the inside of the bed- who knew. She began kicking and screaming. A more rested more composed version of myself would have asked her to correct her behavior and left the room.
This is the route I went instead:
I looked at her and I said, “If you don’t stop that behavior right now I am going to growl at you!”
I proceeded to explain to her that I read this in a parenting magazine somewhere. I have since decided that I did not read it in a parenting magazine but that I, in fact, read it in a pet magazine that was explaining how to let your dog know who is dominant. But, at 3 in the morning, that article and a paper I had read once about throwing a tantrum they way your kid does to show them how silly they look, turned into a threat to growl.
You can see where this is going right?
Of course she acted up again and in the interest of wanting to be consistent with my parenting, I growled.
But, let’s be honest, I didn’t just growl. I went for it. I put my hands up in the air like you do when you pretend to be a bear and I ROARED!
She looked at me with giant eyes and started crying “mommy I peed!”
Yep. I roared at my daughter and scared her so bad she peed in the bed. Awesome.
I instantly felt horrible and held her and helped her get new clothes on ( just saying, if I had just been growled at I wouldn’t let the growler hold me right away but that’s just me…). To make matters worse, my mom heard it all from the other room.
You know the mom I have written about before, the one that I don’t often see eye to eye with? Yeah she heard my shining star parenting moment. So, of course, she intervened. She sat on the end of the bed and looked at Aimee and I. Again, I should have told her it wasn’t her place but I was too tired and defeated.
“I think there is something I should tell you,” she says solemnly as she looks at me.
“What?” I say balancing my devastation of scaring my daughter and the annoyance I feel towards my mom’s intrusion.
“I think Aimee thinks you are going to turn into a bear,” she says in front of Aimee.
“What?” I say totally confused.
She looks at Aimee. “Honey do you think mommy is going to turn into a bear?” she asks in a soft and completely serious voice.
Aimee emphatically nods her head yes.
I mean my performance was pretty convincing (I was in drama club in high school) but I was more than confused as to why she actually thought I was going to turn into a bear.
“I think you need to tell her you aren’t going to become a bear,” my mom chides.
“Why do I need to tell her that- of course people can’t be bears !” I snap.
So, instead of explaining it to me, she looks at Aimee. “Honey don’t worry mommy’s can’t be bears, or grandmas, or grandpas or aunties. People can’t turn into bears. People can’t turn into bears,” my mom repeats several times.
I raise my eyebrow at her for an explanation.
“ We rented the movie Brave the other night when she was over and it really scared her. SPOILER ALERT: The mom turns into a bear. Aimee spent the rest of the night asking us if that could happen. We tried to reassure her that it couldn’t. And now you growled at her…”
Here is what is going on in my head after this little insight from my mother:
3. No wonder I believed so many crazy things growing up-repeating that people can not become bears over and over is certainly not the best way to convince a child of that fact. If Aimee didn’t think I was going to be a bear before this, my mom’s pep talk certainly moved her in that direction.
4.Why didn’t you tell me that Aimee got scared during a movie?
5. Why the hell didn’t you just turn off the movie?
6. Shit that is inconvenient timing
I had the distinct feeling that this unnecessarily prolonged discussion would continue if I didn’t say something. So, despite my better judgment, I reached out to Aimee, cupped her face and as sincerely as possible said, “I promise I will never turn into a bear.”
Apparently this satisfied my mother and she headed to bed. I crawled into bed with Aimee and I said I was sorry. I told her that sometimes parents get super stressed out and don’t make the best decisions. I asked her if she actually believed I was going to be a bear and she looked at me and said,”No. I just cried because I didn’t like your hot smelly breath.”
Given that it was the middle of the night and I had roared directly in her face, I thought that was reasonable. I smiled (because even when she sucks, my kid is pretty awesome) and waited until she fell asleep.
As soon as Aimee fell asleep I got up to call Adam. I woke him up in the middle of the night ( he wasn’t on the trip with us) and as soon as he picked up the phone I started sobbing, “I roared at her!”
He tried to be empathetic with what little information I gave him. “you roared at who sweetie?” he asked gently, “It’s ok. I’m sure you didn’t mean to ( he said with a dangling question mark after it)?” I sob harder and eventually calm down enough to tell Adam the whole story.
Adam had been really bummed he missed the trip. Yet, after that conversation, he seemed to be ok that he wasn’t able to come.
Nothing ever came from this whole bear scenario. I did not become one (that would have been a cool ironic ending to this post though-right?) and neither did anyone else in the family. The only thing that came from it was the heaping guilt I felt about it for weeks.
But, unlike my mother, I did not want to reassure Aimee insistently that I wasn’t a bear. So, I had to hope that the rest of my good parenting made more of an impression than the one-time-nighttime roar.
She seems to have come out of the experience rather unscathed. I do, however, occasionally catch her lifting her hands like claws and growling at the cats when she wants them to listen. We might have to talk about that…