Lessons in Parenthood: Week 16
“Olivia, did you pick up those clothes you left on the ground?”
I looked over to find her sitting in front of the dog’s crate carefully working on reattaching the door, which she had initially removed. Normally I would have gone over and told her to leave it while she goes and picks up after herself, but I was in the middle of doing my makeup, the baby was unhappy, so I decided to rush my makeup.
“…Mami! Look, I DID IT!” She announced proudly as she showed me how she had reattached the door on the dog’s crate. My mind debated between two reactions. A moment’s hesitation. Then I answered.
“Wow! Bravo, Olivia! That’s the first time you’ve done that all by yourself. Great job!”
We hugged and laughed and she jumped around happily.
Earlier I had told her to pick up the clothes and she said she would do it after she was done with her current project. I deferred. Then later I told her again and since I was busy getting ready to go out she danced around the conversation and I didn’t enforce it. By the time I asked her the last time I was really done asking. As a parent, you get painfully familiar with the thought, can’t you just do it the first time I ask? This thought can be more and more frustrating every time you have it throughout the day. Especially when it’s about the same thing.
As I wrote in my previous post, being a parent of your word is paramount. This morning I was debating between really recognizing Olivia’s little victory and making her pick up those clothes. The first reaction that played out in my head was,
“Wow, great, now go pick up those clothes. I’ve already asked you too many times.”
And then I realized how heartless and totally “mom” that sounded. It may not seem like a big deal, but since she was big enough, she was always taking the door off the dog’s crate. When she was younger I would leave it off during the day and reattach if at night. Once she got a bit older I told her to stop because I was sick of finding the door everywhere underfoot. Then I told her if she couldn’t put it back on then stop taking it off. She would often try for a while and give up because it was too difficult. The point is that she always tried.
When she was sitting there quietly focused on figuring out that door, her whole mind was fixed on mastering this skill that had eluded her for so long. She was intent, absorbed. Then, AT LAST! Success! I’ve done it! She’s literally spent half her life trying to figure this thing out. Then she turns to the person who loves her the most to celebrate this success and what is the response? Yeah, yeah, whatever. WHAT?! As simple and unimportant as this seemed at the first glance, it was really a milestone for her. For her. A milestone for me is asking her to pick something up and she does it right away. But this was her victory and it was my job to celebrate with her.
Even if I had said, “Wow! Bravo Olivia! That’s great. Okay, now let’s go clean up those clothes,” it would have defeated her victory. Could I not have stepped out of my own mind long enough to give her complete and full recognition? It would still have been all about me and what I said. The moment was hers and it needed to be all hers.
A phrase I hear often regarding recognition is:
Children cry for it, soldiers die for it
I try not to forget that. Sometimes recognition is the best gift we can give our child. Not matter how insignificant it seems to us in our adult world. In her little world, it means the world.