Great Expectations…

Today was beautiful. Today I felt proud of myself for doing mama things. I most often have a hard time doing mama stuff. I tend to conveniently forget birthday parties, ignore places like the children’s museum and stay home on weekends listening to music, writing and playing quietly with my daughter. One of the reasons; there are way too many expectations for children out and about in the world. In all honesty, I don’t make my daughter “mind” me or “do the right or nice thing.” It seems ludicrous and silly to me. I mean, we all have our moments and sometimes when she hurts me, especially physically, she gets a reaction out of me. But generally I can’t stand going to “kid” events because there are all these unrealistic expectations out there for how children should act and how we as parents should act in response to our kids.

But today, we got up late, an amazing event in itself. We were only forty-eight minutes late for a birthday party at the Pacific Science Center which was fun and filled with dinosaurs, spiders and butterflies and then we actually made it on time to another “Seafair” party on Lake Washington and that was actually fun too. My daughter swam in the lake with her dad. Watched the airplanes fly overhead (even if they are fighter jets for the Navy – at least they are preoccupied with entertaining instead of fighting.) And we ate and drank and the expectations were fairly low. It was nice and “family” like – although we were the only ones with a kid. Maybe that is what made it seem okay to me.

We made it through the day with no “issues” relating to behavior and expectation. We got home and as usual my daughter was chasing her two beloved kittens. One had just pooped on the futon and I was changing the cover and she starting shrieking in her “cat chase” operatic voice and I stopped her body as she came by me and in a not-too-sweet voice I said; “STOP CHASING THE CATS, YOU’RE SCARING THEM!” And before me I watched my day full of fun, sun and “good” parenting collapse with my child. She tried to ram her body between the wall and the bookcase and began to sob in grief. I took her perfectly happy child-filled-glee moment and stifled her. I knelt down, and took her in my arms and told her that I was sorry I yelled but that it wasn’t okay to scare the cats. She started saying, “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry” and I felt like the worst mama ever – ever.

I felt like I shamed her tonight. I can’t let this happen – even unintentionally. I’ve taught children who have had a heavy dose of shame in their lives and they are so sad. She’s three now and I can see her being more effected by what others think and say. I’m no good at this part of the parenting equation. I’m terrible at setting limits and boundaries and saying no. I let things go and let her do what she wants until in one quick non-thinking moment I set a limit, out-of-the-blue in a not-so-calm manner. I have to remember to set limits ahead of time, calmly, like our other moments. I don’t want to have the same expectations the world has. I want to be tender and limber and loving when she needs to learn a limit and change a behavior. I just have to remember that feeling from childhood and breathe one, two, three, twenty three times before reacting.

And also, remember not to be too hard on myself, while still being cognizant of my actions.

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One Response to “Great Expectations…”

  1. I completely identify with this. My son is only seven months old, but I still struggle with being patient when setting limits and not stifling him. I just discovered your blog and look forward to reading more. I went to Sarah Lawrence for my undergrad, so it’s exciting to run into someone else from there (if even only on the interwubs).

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