I knew today was going to be rough from the moment she got up. Where everything I did or didn’t do resulted in whining, crying, and dropping to the floor. Even though she slept a good eleven hours, she somehow woke up on the wrong side of the bed.
What you don’t know is that I am actually a therapist, a clinical social worker and that I have been trained in addressing these sorts of behaviors. So you would assume that with all this experience and background, my children would always behave perfectly and would personify the obedient, easy-going child, right? Wrong.
So when you saw my strong-willed ballerina throw herself to the ground, I put on my therapist hat and pulled out my bag of tricks. I tried an array of behavioral strategies in an attempt to get her out of the hallway and into the classroom with your kids.
I ignored her. I spoke to her gently. I gave her prompts and countdowns. I said, “first this, then that.” I tried positive reinforcement. I tried taking something away. I tried. And tried. She held her ground, and so did I. Barely.
I pulled her off of my leg so that I could step to the side. I needed a moment out of your view. I sucked in the air till I couldn’t anymore. I let it out through my clenched teeth hoping to release some of the frustration boiling inside. I diverted my attention to my 11-month-old, who was attached to my hip and starting to get antsy. I made small talk with him between my daughter’s intermittent outbursts even though he couldn’t talk back. I looked into his eyes and imagined he said, “It’s okay, mama.”
Maybe you wondered why I didn’t pack up my things and head home right then and there. I know I had seen one of you do just that on an off day with your child. But I decided to stay because my child is a slow-to-warm-up kid. It takes her a while to get used to things. She loves to dance at home and asked to take lessons. I knew this was a new experience for her, and I wanted to give her the chance to really try it.
As the class started to wrap up, you and I both knew I wasn’t going to win this one. My time had run out—45 long, agonizing minutes.
I felt frustrated. I felt defeated. I felt judged even though you weren’t judging me because I was judging myself.
I packed up our belongings right as your children entered the waiting room with their smiles and stickers for class participation. I sheepishly apologized (again) and was out the door before you could respond.
As you could imagine, I was upset on the ride home. I gave them their lunch and put them down for their nap. I fell to the couch and reflected on the morning.
I tried to remind myself that all kids, including yours, have bad days. All children have meltdowns. All children throw tantrums. It is a given.
Children are impulsive. Children lack coping skills. Children struggle with managing their emotions and expressing their feelings. They test boundaries and are exploring their independence. They are learning how the world works.
I reminded myself that all of this behavior is developmentally appropriate and, quite honestly, healthy! And it is not just a reflection on parenting skills.
Yes, there are certain things we can do to minimize, shorten and prevent some of these behaviors, but when it comes down to it, sometimes it’s going to happen regardless of us or what we do.
There is no magic wand. There is no all-fixing strategy. We have to get creative. We do the best we can. And in all honesty, sometimes we have to ride out the wave and remind ourselves that this too shall pass.
It shall pass.