I sat in the playground this afternoon while Henry and Molly played, reading a new parenting book. The methods and message of the book contrast greatly with how I have been parenting. And that is the point of my reading this book: we need some changes around here, some alternatives to yelling and battling the little things. We need some new ways of thinking.
And I was thinking heavily about what I was reading, feeling hopeful but realizing my mistakes may indeed be grave. I had already made some mistakes today getting them to swim lessons. At one point I put the book down and was talking with Molly on the bench; she wanted to play with my phone. Try to say yes more than no.
Henry came over and without my realizing, took my eyeglasses. And ran with them.
“Look what Henry’s got!” Molly alerted me. Crap. What the fuck does this book say about kids taking things that could break and cost a lot to replace?
The chase began.
“HENRY! Those are my glasses!”
And he threw them on the ground.
“THOSE ARE MINE! Do you want to leave?”
Don’t threaten or reward. Deal with the child and not the behavior. Do not punish or threaten. Ask him what he’s thinking.
“We WILL leave!”
I walked away from my son, past the other parents at the park, not making eye contact–as one does in this situation.
Later, I could see another mother approaching my bench. I didn’t acknowledge her until I couldn’t avoid it.
“I just want to tell you,” she leaned in, “that I have been there. With the glasses.”
“And you handled that really well, keeping your cool.”
Really? “You are sweet.” I said something about eyeglasses being easy to break. “Thank you.”
And just like that, I wasn’t a “bad” example. We may both be wrong, this mother and I. We may know more than we think. Or we may just be doing what we can do. Parenting transforms us into our better selves, and often our worst; it changes from moment to moment. These are true. True as well, is that the universe will, at times, fill an empty moment with the smallest of kindnesses.