Perhaps it was because my mom always touted that I was a ‘good kid’ and that she never ‘had issues’ with me, that I just assumed my children would act the same. I was raised in household where no one ever yelled, carried on, made a scene, we all just acted ‘normal’ we knew what was expected of us, we followed our parents’ example and we were good. No questions asked. Sure there was the occasional misbehavior, but all it took was a sideways look of disappointment from my mom or dad and we were back on the straight and narrow. It never even crossed my mind that I could propagate a child who was defiant, threw Oscar worthy temper tantrums, didn’t care a licked-y-split about my threats, and even, yes even, mocked my attempts at parenting… – after all, defiance is just a reflection of bad parenting right!?
I should have known there was a potential for mischief when my in-laws would tell me stories of how my husband would throw fits when he was a child – but then came that mantra, creeping in once again ‘well, my child would NEVER do that…’
And, it only took a few months after my daughter was born for me to realize that I was going to ‘eat crow’ for all of those ‘my child would NEVER’ statements I uttered under my breath all of those years. My daughter is the most passionate, fun loving, free spirit you might ever meet – she sees the world as her playground and thinks everyone around her feels the same. She’s never met a stranger and is always admired by others for her outgoingness, honesty, sincerity and unending energy. Her independence and ‘I can do it!’ attitude has left the parenting side of me baffled. But, like all of us, her greatest strengths are also, at times, her biggest weaknesses.
My biggest struggle with her is to teach her social etiquette – like, not everyone in Costco wants to know that you are wearing Dora underwear, or that 99.9% of new moms and dads don’t want you to caress their newborn baby and sing it lullabys, or that when I tell you that you can’t have something in a store, it’s not OK to go up to a prefect stranger and ask them to buy you that something instead…and then when the stranger stands there with a stunned look on their face, plead with them and tell them why you think you deserve said thing. Granted these all sound innocent and endearing, but not everyone in the general public is amused by her personality (nor should they be). And it’s when I try to re-direct her from a situation like the ones mentioned above that the little ugly monster rears it’s head….’No! Mom, I am talking to my new friend!’ is a popular response. Or, ‘I told you, I am talking mom.’ Or, my all time favorite ‘Leave me alone, you are not my friend anymore!’ Which then, usually results in me giving her a stern warning to move-along, which then results in another ‘no!’ which then leads to me picking her up, flailing and screaming (because I have tried the ‘ok bye then, I’m leaving’ walkaway approach and she would be more than happy to watch me get in my car and drive away for good while she carried on with her new found best friend…) And then, whomever she is talking to gives me the dreaded ‘my child would NEVER get away with that’ look of disapproval…my heart starts pumping, I have flashbacks of my own judgments, and I end up reprimanding my daughter for something that I have no idea how to explain to her… you can’t be nice to people???
I have tried EVERY approach and nothing seems to work – I realize that my fear of being labeled as a ‘push-over parent’ (after all that’s what I thought of parents whose kids acted out) has pretty much caused me to be the other extreme – an overbearing parent. I struggle daily with the fact that I don’t want to suffocate the extravert in her, but more importantly that I don’t want my fear of ‘being a bad parent’ to cloud my judgment on what is acceptable behavior and what is not. Maybe I should stop caring about whether others are bothered by her boisterousness. Maybe I need to let her learn through her own experiences what is socially acceptable and what is not – she surely isn’t taking cues from me, the introverted, elusive observer. After all, the worse thing that could happen is that she could ‘kill a stranger with kindness.’ But all of that is easier said than done…as an old high school friend would say 'relax. relate. release.'