Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Wait and See

This one lacks the blue glitter, and is confined to her lips, but is otherwise similar.
Ever have times when you are too shell-shocked to respond?  And is that ever a good thing?  For me, it was.  It forced me to wait a moment before responding, and gave me the chance to see something beautiful that I would have missed if I hadn't waited. It happened after an exhausting afternoon.  I had just congratulated myself on getting a cranky, teething baby to sleep and was marveling at the relative quiet from the living room.  I should have known...

I heard a gasp, then my seven year old's ominous tone, "Mom is not going to be happy about that."  I held my breath lest the little one wake up as I eased away as carefully as possible.  I tiptoed to the living room and bit back a shriek.  Nearly every surface imaginable was smeared with lipstick.

My two year old is fascinated by lipstick.  I am not sure why, but she is obsessed with the stuff.  She asks every day for me to buy her some blue lipstick.  I had conceded to give her a couple of tubes of chapstick, but she was savvy enough to realize that it did not color her lips the same way.  And since blue is her favorite color, naturally she wanted bright blue.

I didn't have her favorite Spiderman-blue shade, but I had purchased an extremely vivid violet lipstick full of blue glitter once for fun.  Apparently, she decided that this was an acceptable substitute.  And because it was not something I wore regularly, it was nearly full.  Was.  Preterite tense.  Not only was it now worn down to the nub, she had even gouged out the part that held it in the base.

But she had gotten remarkable mileage out of it.  There were handprints going up the walls as she apparently had climbed to admire her handiwork in the mirror...smears all over random surfaces, the table...more all over the blinds where she must have climbed behind the couch to avoid discovery.  And of course, she had painted herself with it liberally.

I was reeling.  I normally keep all of my make up in the van because I know just how tempting it is to her to leave it in the house.  But I had brought it in since the van was getting some repairs, and despite putting it up high, she had used her monkey superpowers to retrieve it. 

Now, most people would suggest a scolding and perhaps a spanking to fix in her mind that she is not to touch that again, ever.   After all, how will they be sorry if we don't make this a painful experience?  We must make them somehow pay for their mistakes so that they will get how bad it was, right?

I was so overwhelmed at that moment that I went into autopilot mode.  I numbly started cleaning up the mess.  I gently told her that we needed to clean it up, and helped her wipe her face and hands.  I really didn't know what to do next.  I certainly didn't want her to repeat the actions, but I didn't feel right about shaming or punishing her, either.  My mind raced trying to figure out the best way to handle the situation.  Then, as so often happens when we wait, she astounded me.
 
My two year old began doing her best to help me.  She rubbed the carpet and wiped surfaces, and let me wash her off.  She hugged my knees tightly (inadvertently transferring a little more lipstick I had missed to my jeans), and looked up with a troubled face.  "I sorry, mami.  I broked your lipstick.  I gib you one of mine.  Here it is. It's not brokened.  It's nice.  You use it, you keep it now, OK?"  She quickly brought me her favorite flavor.

I began to thank God fervently that I had been too overwhelmed to yell or scream (fear of waking the baby didn't hurt, either).  Somehow, we have been conditioned to believe that we must make our children feel bad in order to make them do good.  We don't.  We don't have to create remorse.  Sometimes, all they need is a little time to realize what has taken place.

She was so anxious to make amends, and so generous to offer her little treasures to replace what she had messed up.  If I had scolded and punished, I would never have seen or recognized the open-heartedness of her gesture.  I would have subconsciously assumed that she was doing it because she had to, not because she wanted to.

I think I have a new tool in my parenting tool box now.  Waiting.  Waiting for them to process what has happened.  That may take a few minutes.  It may take much longer as they reach the maturity necessary to understand.  And of course we will continue to teach during that time.  But I am convinced that if we wait, we will see things that we wouldn't otherwise.  Like the tender heart and generosity of spirit in my little lipstick artist.

25 comments:

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said...

Beautiful. They are full of gracious surprises. I'm trying to add waiting as well.

Kelly said...

Love this Dulce - what a powerful story! I'm glad it worked out the way it did...

I'll be keeping this one in mind mama. :)

Jenny said...

Love this post! How sweet. I would've flipped my lid, and it breaks my heart because my kids are the same way. They don't mean to make more work for me, they're just so darn curious and I'm sure that blue lipstick felt heavenly sliding onto a plain surface that needed a little decoration. I am working my way through Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves and trying soooo hard to overcome my tendency to yell. Definitely want to link to this later, thanks for sharing :-)

dulce de leche said...

Thank you all so much!

Lauren, I love the phrase you used, "gracious surprises." That is such a perfect description. <3

Kelly, I am really glad it worked out that way, too. It could easily have gone another way--there are so many times when I yell or shame. I was mostly too tired and too overwhelmed to react, but I want to fix this in my mind so that a kind response becomes more consistent. <3

Jenny, I loved that book (the second time, anyway. I didn't get much the first time I read it, but found it tremendously helpful the second time.). I loved the way you described their curiosity and delight in new things. <3

Chantilly Patiño said...

Excellent post! This is exactly what love is all about. Patience...waiting. Hearing your daughter's words makes me want to cry...so adorable, innocent and beautiful. <3

Sandra said...

Great post!

dulce de leche said...

Thank you both so much! <3

Staci said...

You know I have to giggle. She & Sydney are kindred souls. I can only imagine what the 2 of them would "decorate" (other than themselves, of course) if left to their own devices. You are my hero, btw, with your gracious responses.

dulce de leche said...

(((Staci))) Can you imagine the two of them doing interior design together twenty years from now? :) I have a feeling they would go for really vibrant decor.

Staci said...

Hehe! Picasso would be considered "normal". :giggle

Mandi S. said...

I'm currently reading Raising our Children, Raising Ourselves, too, and this struck a chord with me. One of the first things, she mentions is the waiting aspect...to let everything you may want to yell, silently play out in your head, so that you can respond with respect and in a calm manner. I love how this played out and it's even more incentive to me to keep my cool.

Gauri said...

Oh, my, this is just perfect. It made me cringe, laugh and then, gently, share your aha moment. Thank you so much. I am moved.

Gauri
LovingEarthMama.com

Leslie@Purejoyparenting said...

Oh, how I love that you were able to wait, move inside and take care of yourself instead of needing her to. How beautiful!

Witch Mom said...

This is lovely. Thank you for sharing. I will add waiting to my tools as well.

dulce de leche said...

Thank you all so much! I am so grateful for each of you wise and gentle mamas. So often I find myself laughing at the hierarchical notion of teaching. It is so much more a circle--my children teach me as much as I teach them. <3

Dharmamama said...

What a lovely post! I'm so grateful to have moved from yelling and shaming - and now, it seems like such a foreign concept that I ever would have done such a thing! In her book "Buddha Never Raised Kids and Jesus Didn't Drive Carpool" Vickie Falcone advocates taking 3 deep breaths before you act. I know she's certainly not the first person to say that, but her book is where I first "got" that. Three deep breaths - such a GREAT tool until your old ways of parenting have been shifted away -- and it fits right in with waiting!

ErinKate said...

Beautiful. Thank you!!

Julinda said...

I LOVE THIS! Wonderful and inspiring.

dulce de leche said...

Thank you all so very much! <3 Dharmamama, I am glad that you mentioned that book--it sounds like one I would enjoy. :)

Tiffany said...

This was a beautiful post, and such a wonderful lesson for me. My daughter is almost two, and I feel I have many of these moments ahead of me. I hope I have the presence of mind to remember your words. I'm making myself think about this today, hoping to commit it to memory and heart for those moments I know I have ahead of me.

Anonymous said...

Thank-you so much for sharing this. I try to parent like this as much as possible and it was just encouraging to read this. Best of luck and I will be returning to read your blog from now on.

~Elizabeth

dulce de leche said...

Thank you so much, and welcome, Elizabeth! I am always encouraged to have moms like you in my parenting community! :)

Pippi said...

I recently experienced something like that with our 4-year-old. He is going through a phase of being very defiant, and hitting me amd saying bad words when he doesn't get his way. Rewards don't work, he would rather do without his favorite toy or treat than apologize. He needs time. At my wits end, I have started sending him upstairs until he calms down. We have only a 3-room cabin and if I send him to the porch, he runs off and hides from me.
He sat up there for a while telling me how much he hates me, and other childish declarations of anger and imagined superiority. I pretended not to hear. Eventually he started crying, so I went up to see if it might be a good time to reconcile. He was sitting there with a copy of the only family picture we have, which he had found on the shelf; and he hugged me and said he was so sorry and he didn't want to hate me. It made ME want to cry. I would never have thought a picture would do what loss of privileges or disgrace wouldn't. It was such a revealing moment.

beth@redandhoney said...

I love this reminder - thank-you! In the next day or two when I get my next link post done, I'll be including this. Love it!

Andrea said...

Yes and thank you. :)Sometimes the "great cloud of witnesses" comes in the form of those who have gone before in this parenting adventure, and sometimes it comes in the form of going through the adventure together. I am thankful for others I can look to for guidance and sometimes for utter shock and auto-pilot.

My sweet boy is now clean and worn out from 3 hours at the playground. But I'm still keeping my eye on him ;)