So the sky opened up this week, and little angels started playing harps and fluttering around my head in jubilation. Okay, not really, but that’s about how it felt. Wait for it…
It turns out I’m actually getting through to my kid.
We’ve been going through a phase in our house lately. The 6-going-on-16 phase. The phase where my smart little first grader is realizing that she in fact has the power to say no to me and then can actually flat out refuse to do whatever it is she doesn’t feel like doing. Like showering. Or taking her allergy eye drops. Or you know, speaking to me.
Look, most days I feel pretty a-okay about my child-rearing. I work at being a conscious, “cool” parent who listens to her kid and tries to see things from her point of view. But lately I’ve had more days than not of wondering if all my effort is going to amount to what I’ve always thought it would.
I believe in both nature and nurture. I think our kids come out of the womb embodying some aspects of their personalities that will never change, and at the same time I’ve seen that love, patience and understanding go a long way in creating kind, well-adjusted humans.
But even I have my doubts on some days.
So imagine my delight when a few days ago the Universe gave me cold, hard evidence that she actually hears the words coming out of my mouth from time to time.
My husband and I were walking home from Chloe’s first grade performance. (They’re studying birds, and it was so. freaking. cute. Just picture sixty first-graders singing and dancing to Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds.) Another family from her class was walking alongside us to their car, and we were all chattering away. Their child is a sweet, reserved little boy in Chloe’s class, and any time I can get a smile out of him when I’m volunteering, I feel like I’ve had a major win for the day. (We’ll call him O.)
So we were walking along, and his mom says, “O said on the way to school today that Chloe gave him some ‘good advice’ for if he feels nervous during the performance.”
So obviously I was already swooning.
“What was that?” I asked.
She continued, “Well, he said that Chloe said that if he feels nervous he should just take a couple deep breaths and then smile anyway like he’s not nervous and that he’ll feel better.”
You guys, I died. Right there. I melted into a puddle of parental mush and just died. Total heart implosion.
The fact that she started with the deep breaths. Do you know how many times Chloe has been verifiably losing her shit, and I’ve tried to get her to take deep breaths? About one million and seventy-two. And about half that time she looks at me like I’m a crazy person.
She. Told. Him. To. Breathe.
And the smiling. That, my friends is emotional rehearsal. Find your feel-good. Connect with a better-feeling emotion. Choose a different focus than the one making you feel bad.
I think I’m going to go ahead and ask her if she wants me to ghostwrite a book for her.
That one conversation was enough parental fuel to last me at least a year.
You see, we all learn by repetition. Our brains are wired for it. And we also learn by observation. Wired for that too. And by god all that repeating myself and taking deep breaths right before I wanted to lose my shit myself has, I think, in fact, paid off.
So keep on keeping on, parents.
Keep telling them how much you love them even when they roll their eyes. Keep encouraging them to be kind even when they’re being little shits. Keep showing them what it looks like to behave like a civizlied human being in public. Because I’m convinced they’re picking up at least some of it.
Even if they’ll never admit they learned it from you.