Monday, August 15, 2011

Trials of Motherhood

You know, there are great days and hard days and I waited until now to write this post because I knew that if I wrote when I wanted to, I'd write something unpleasant.

This morning was a troubling morning for me as a mother. I haven't had many of these types of mornings, but when I do they ruin me for about a week. Today was one of those days when something about Elizabeth was brought to my attention that caused me to question my abilities as a mother. I know it sounds silly, but every once in a while this happens.

You see, Elizabeth is a great kid, but she has had the great misfortune of being born with the exact combo of Stephen's and my personality traits. This particular combo makes her wonderful, but also extremely difficult at the same time. She's friendly and outgoing like me, and she's determined and ready to learn like Stephen. These traits make her super fun and very good at learning things.

Unfortunately, they also make her over-bearing and stubborn. These are things that I have known about her for a long time, now, and Stephen and I are doing the best we can to teach her to be the best little girl she can be. Some days it works out, and she behaves well; other days.....not so much.

Most of the time Elizabeth's infractions occur with Stephen and me only, so we deal with her and move on. Sometimes, though, they occur with other kids. It's inevitable, I guess. When you get a bunch of kiddos together all between the ages of 2-5, there are going to be little squabbles. Usually it's not a big deal because all of the kiddos are somehow involved and at fault, and the parents step in when needed and deal with them. That is how I've always viewed "playdates." To me they are a chance for mommies to have some much-needed adult time, and they are also a chance for kiddos to learn to socialize. Unfortunately, kiddos are simultaneously great and horrible at helping each other learn how to treat each other. By hanging out together, kids can help each other pick up good habits, but they can pick up bad ones too. Learning how to deal with this has been a MUCH trickier process than I ever expected.

You see, I have some incredible friends who all understand this process. They are dealing with it too. Most of us have an understanding between us that everyone's kid will be a little monster sometimes, but we never judge each other because we are all in the thick of it and doing our best. Most of my friends also understand the need for kids to be taught to be good but also allowed to work things out amongst themselves sometimes. Elizabeth has learned some of her best playtime lessons by being scolded not by me, but by her little friends. All of these play times have been good experiences for Elizabeth and me, and they have been a great encouragement in so many ways.

However, this morning I was hit with something I never experienced before. At our usual Monday morning playdate at our favorite place, Elizabeth was playing with some of her friends and then some other kiddos of mommies who had also brought their kids to the same place. She was extra hyper because she was so excited to be at her favorite place with her friends. When she is hyper, she has trouble controlling her actions, and we have been WORKING on that A LOT lately. However, the excitement was just too much for her. She was other-enthusiastic, and started being bossy. She tried to force the other kids to play the way she wanted to. I noticed and took what I thought was the appropriate action.

Then, a few minutes later, Elizabeth got so excited she yelled right into another child's face. I know my own child, so I can say confidently that Elizabeth was NOT being malicious. She was being aggressive (and we are working on that too!), but she meant no harm to this little kid. She considers ALL children she meets as friends, whom she loves. However, his mother was very upset. She loudly told her child, "it's okay, son, she's just being mean." I, of course, took this as her not-so-subtle cue to deal with Elizabeth, so I, again, took her aside and dealt with her. I made her apologize to the boy, and I also informed her that if it happened again, we'd leave. I then apologized to the mother, and she basically told me that it wasn't okay, and she thought Elizabeth had something against her son.

Well, after that, I kept an extra close eye on Elizabeth, and she played nicely for a while after that. But she got hyped up, again, and yelled again. This time it was at another kid; a kid that she knows well. He was not upset by it, and it was clear that she was just playing around, but it was too late. Elizabeth had disobeyed, so I told her we were leaving and started to pack up to leave. As I was doing so, the first boy's mother came up to me and informed me that she was uncomfortable with her son ever playing with my daughter again. Without revealing her exact wording, I'll just say that she decided that Elizabeth was a bad influence and not to be trusted around her boy.

I was mortified. I was extremely embarrassed, and had no idea how to react. I was deeply hurt, but mostly just angry at myself. As we drove home, all I could think was, "how could I be such a horrible mother that I'd allow my daughter to become 'that kid' that no mommies want their kids around?" and "how could I possibly have ever thought that I could handle motherhood?"

I know it seems extreme, but those are the actual thoughts that went through my head. I couldn't believe what had just happened, and worse, I absolutely had no idea what to do next. I had no idea how to parent my child anymore. I mean, I have been doing my VERY BEST every day since she was born, and this is what I have to show for it?

Then, of course, my mom's favorite parenting advice ran through my head, "never take too much of the credit or too much of the blame," and she's right, but I won't lie; I've been battling myself, trying to make myself believe that all day. I want my child to be the kind of kid that others (no matter the age) want to be around. I want to raise her to respect and love others with her words and actions, but I know that I only have a small role in that, and it's hard.

Now that the day is over, and I sit here reflecting, I still don't know. All I know to do is to keep doing my best every day and pray that God gives me the wisdom and discernment to know how to teach Elizabeth to be the best kid she can be.

I'd appreciate your prayers for me as I continue traveling down this tough, and sometimes confusing road.

Love to you all,

P.S. Sorry that this was kind of a downer post, but hopefully I can post a more positive one, soon.


jen mccrady said...

i love you, and you are a WONDERFUL mother. hang in there, and i'll be praying for you.

dupliKate said...

Let's try to consider the alternative. Mothers of every age want no harm to ever come to their child and would rather slice off their own thumbs rather than have their precious child feel the SLIGHTEST bit of discomfort. In other times, mothers also knew that you need trials, hardships and other unpleasantness to build character, to teach you how to "deal" and otherwise give you the experiences you need to grow into a well-adjusted adult. In THESE times, mothers seem to be forgetting that bad experienced bring good lessons and preventing any discomfort may be seriously handicapping their child's emotional growth.

I could imagine a mother that loved her son SO much that she never scolded, never yelled, never let him play on anything that could be even remotely dangerous and never let him take any chances. I can also see her overreacting to any perceived harm. I fear she will be much dismayed as she watches her son grow into a man who lives a life without consequences (and we all know how badly that can turn out).

I can also imagine a mom that allows her kid to struggle, to try, to fail, to mistreat others and realize the pain it can cause them and herself, to treat others well and realize the joy it can bring to them and herself. I can imagine that this child would grow into a woman who has learned the value and consequences of her actions and is much the better for it.

Ya know... hypothetically...

Mommy43JB said...

First off, hey Jen how are you?? Your kids are adorable!!
I think the mom overreacted. When my son was that age I don't believe I would have told another mother her child was a "bad influence" on mine. They are all equal influences at that time. She's a young child she is learning, you are learning, that woman needs to get over it in my opinion. Elizabeth did not strike, push or otherwise physically harm her child, and you took the right action by following through with punishment. That is EXACTLY the type of kid I would want around my child, she isn't perfect but she is disciplined. From what I've seen you are a great mother, take your mom's advice and she her as the overprotective unrealistic mother she showed herself to be.

Karen said...

I just wanted to encourage you and say that I think your an amazing mommy to those little girls! I am sure Elizabeth is going through a faze. You are amazing at being the bigger person, and I wish we wre closer so our girls could have play dates! Have a wonderful weekend!


it is true that this babies are so cute. God bless them. and take care carefully.