Last week I sent cupcakes to Ethan's school to celebrate his third birthday. I wanted him to have a chance to celebrate with his little friends. I wanted him to feel a little extra special. Instead those cupcakes ended up causing him pain. You see, due to some reorganization he is one of the youngest in his class this year and my over-zealousness to celebrate ended up bringing attention to this little fact.
When he got in the car after school that day we went through the routine questions. "Did you have a good day?", "Did you eat your lunch?", "Who did you play with?" all of which he answered until I got to "Did you make any new friends?". He sullenly replied his new go to answer of "I tell you later". I pressed on naming names...we've been on a mission to make new friends. He stopped me at one name and sadly told me that two of the boys in his class called him a "baby" which we all know is a major toddler insult.
I glanced back in the rear-view mirror and saw his sad little defeated face. I wanted to whip that car around and go handle things right then and there. Instead, I took a deep breath and searched and searched for the right words to tell him. He may only be three, but to me this was some kind of pivotal parenting moment. I decided to keep the mood light and stayed upbeat reminding him that he was a big boy and that those kids were just being silly. I told him we would talk about it more later and quickly distracted him with some other topic...more than likely a truck.
I couldn't stop thinking about it that day. Is all this stuff really starting already? Kids can be so cruel. I just want him to keep feeling so very special. We cheer our kids on so much in the beginning. That first year is full of "Yay's!" and smiles and claps and proud parent moments. There is no doubt they feel special. As the years go by though there seem to be so many less "Yay's!" in life, but as a parent you always want them to feel like the star that they are to you.
Later that day, I realized I had seen that sad little defeated face before. I had seen it as a result of my own quick reaction to some typical toddler behavior. Life with a toddler can be so very draining. They test limits, test patience, push buttons. It is the very definition of toddlerhood. It is what they are suppose to do. But sometimes, it breaks you. It brings out a side of you that you never thought would come when you were holding your first squishy newborn in your arms.
I don't want to be a bully, especially to my own child. It's up to me to choose an appropriate reaction when times get tough. Sometimes I am quick to inappropriately use my words to express my ill-feelings in many different situations when I shouldn't be. I know my sons are going to emulate my behavior. I want that to be a good thing.
Turns out it was definitely a pivotal parenting moment. It was a wake up call for me. It's time to practice my patience. Whether that's counting to ten or a hundred or even just knowing when to take a break. He's watching me. He's watching my reactions. He's learning what is and isn't appropriate from me. He will remember the feelings I cause him to feel. He will learn from me how to treat others and how to react to them.
That night when I crawled into bed with him to do our nightly book and songs I brought the situation back up. I explained to him that he is in charge of his happiness and it was up to him to make sure those boys didn't take it from him. I too am in charge of his happiness of his confidence of his self worth. Of all the things to get right...those are certainly important ones.
I'll be practicing patience this week...less yelling, slower reactions, more love and more breaks. I'll be taking a lot more deep breaths. Something tells me I'll be taking in a lot more oxygen...