He wanted another one.  He’d been collecting those little Smurf figurines, and he knew that we’d stopped at a shop where he could get another one.  As his mother explained that she didn’t plan on buying him one today, he squeezed his eyes shut, threw back is red head and let forth a frustrated roar.  This was a big tantrum, and his many brothers and sisters braced themselves.  He sat on his mother’s lap, shook from side to side and in his anger, lifted up his two year old hand and hit her on the arm with all his might.

A child too, but a little older and thinking myself wiser, I remember thinking, “I will never let my child hit me like that! Why isn’t she punishing him?!”  But instead of hitting him back or yelling at him, this little boy’s mother reached out and hugged him.

“I’m not buying you another Smurf.  Not today.”  As he railed and cried, she firmly but gently stood by her no.  She held him and rocked him, and soothed him.  She said no to the Smurf, but she said yes to gentleness, to connection, to love.  At the time, it was mind-boggling.

In my mind, she was a revolutionary.

800px-Toddler_and_7_week_hybrid_puppy

Many years later, I have now weathered the sticky storm of three energetic and emotional toddlers.  In fits of anger, frustration and helplessness each of my children have reached out and hit me too.  Though as a child I promised myself I would never let that go unpunished, I must confess that I usually simply say, “I know you’re upset.  Please don’t hit me,” and reciprocate with a hug or gentle touch.  After all, his pudgy little fists don’t hurt me, but seeing him unhappy does.  When he hits out at me, he does me no harm, but it pains me to see him feeling so cross and out of control.  What I want is not to punish him, but to console him.  I never thought I’d feel this way.  I’m part of the revolution too.

There are so many opportunities to say no to my children.  I feel as though I am constantly setting limits, reiterating limits, thinking through their requests and trying to decide whether to say yes or no.  As a mother, I want to consider the big picture, to take the long view.  Sometimes I draw a line in the sand, and they simply step over it.  Confrontation ensues. Tears, unhappiness, disappointment.  They didn’t want to hear a ‘no.’  Quite the opposite.

I can’t always give them what they want, but always I endeavour to give them what they need.  Their needs are simple, their wants complex. That sad little boy didn’t get that Smurf, but he received his mother’s understanding and love.  She knew that her answer was unwelcome, and she consoled him in his disappointment.  My aunt, this gentle and generous woman, rocked and soothed my little cousin ‘til he calmed.  That little boy has grown into a man with his own family.  He probably doesn’t recall how frustrated he felt; I doubt he holds it against her that she said no to him.  But he knows that his mother treated him with love and respect.

She wasn’t always calm.  I know she lost her temper and often found mothering, housework and work a challenge.  After all, she had six children, two jobs and a farm.  She was just a normal mother, not some superhuman.

But she was a revolutionary.  She let her behaviour reflect her loving feelings instead of giving into punishment and shame.  When her children did wrong, she talked to them, explained to them, and sure, she sometimes shouted… just like the rest of us.  She tried to say yes whenever she could; when she had to say no, she empathised with her children.  That empathy, that love, that generosity: that is what we remember.  It was life-changing for us all.

© Lisa Hassan Scott, 2013.

This post is about my aunt. She died on the day I was due to give birth to my third child.  Unable to travel to grieve with the rest of my family, the week of my son’s birth will always be a time of joy and sorrow for me.

Photo credit: By Erduke10 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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The Quiet Revolutionary
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25 thoughts on “The Quiet Revolutionary

  • 10/03/2013 at 4:03 pm
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    Beautiful post, Lisa! Thank you for sharing your memory.

    • 10/03/2013 at 7:48 pm
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      Thanks Mom. Love, Lisa

  • 10/03/2013 at 4:08 pm
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    What a beautiful post, Lisa! Your aunt sounds like she was an amazing woman. It’s hard to always respond like she did when our limits as mothers as pushed and tested but this is such a good reminder of how important it is to respond with love and compassion.

    • 10/03/2013 at 7:50 pm
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      Thank you so much for sharing my post on Twitter and for commenting here. Yes, she was an amazing woman. But I think that part of my memory is so essential: she wasn’t superhuman or 100% patient. I do remember her sighing with frustration, I remember her shouting and being at the end of her rope. But we (those who knew her) remember her mainly for her love and generosity. That’s such an important message to so many mothers who beat themselves up when they fail to meet the expectation that they will never shout, never feel cross or resentful, etc.
      All the best,
      Lisa

  • 10/03/2013 at 4:25 pm
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    Lovely post. It must be very special for you to have a mothering role model to remember. Sadly, I have too many negative memories – more of a ‘how not to do it’, and even now I know precious few people who parent the way I do. But I do have posts like this to inspire me!

    • 10/03/2013 at 7:47 pm
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      Hi Jo,
      I hear what you’re saying: parenting with gentleness can be isolating. The interesting thing about my aunt is that I don’t think she ever read parenting books but I do think she was in touch with her feelings and felt grateful for the time she spent with her children. Perhaps it came naturally to her, or maybe it’s what having six kids teaches you. I wish I could ask her. Family was very important to her, and I suppose in my language, I would say that connection was foremost (even though I couldn’t see her describing it that way).

      Parenting role models crop up in unlikely places; until my aunt died I hadn’t fully appreciated how influential she was on my parenting. Perhaps you are a parenting role model to someone else– your choices will be an inspiration to someone else, including your own children.
      Wishing you well,
      Lisa

  • 10/03/2013 at 5:39 pm
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    Great post Lisa! You’re right…I only remember her and dads love. And also find it difficult today to react with love instead of anger. Love and miss you!

    • 10/03/2013 at 7:41 pm
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      Hi Nate,
      I’m absolutely delighted that you decided to reply, and that I was right about what you remembered about your mom. She was such a role model for me when it comes to parenting. But I didn’t realise it til the past few years. I wish I could have told her.

      I think most parents find it hard to react with anger rather than gentleness. It takes constant practice! By the time your mom had you, I guess she was well broken in.

      Love you & miss you too,
      Lisa

    • 10/03/2013 at 7:39 pm
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      Hi Ross,
      Thank you for reading and commenting. I hope you’ve had a good day.
      Lisa

  • 10/03/2013 at 8:45 pm
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    I can tell you that when we were little, she always wanted to play house. I was supposed to be the baby but true to my nature, I rebelled and said no. She was a mommy then, too, and always loved children so much. I will always remember her gentleness and smile when she talked to or touched a child. What a gift she was and I thank God for her everyday. Thank you for the memories, Lisa!

    • 11/03/2013 at 9:28 am
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      Thanks for commenting Mom. She was really a special person, and so are you!
      Love,
      Lisa

  • 10/03/2013 at 9:43 pm
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    Awesome tribute to your Kathy, and my awesome sister in law.

    • 11/03/2013 at 9:26 am
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      Thanks for reading and commenting Jane. Hope you are all well,
      Lisa

  • 10/03/2013 at 10:01 pm
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    Really, really lovely, Lisa. Your aunt was inspirational.

    • 11/03/2013 at 9:27 am
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      Yes she was Kirsten. Sad that I only really appreciated it when it was too late and she was gone.
      Thank you for stopping by,
      Lisa

  • 10/03/2013 at 10:17 pm
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    A beautiful post about a beautiful person, written by a beautiful person. Thank you for sharing.

    • 11/03/2013 at 9:26 am
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      Thanks for taking the time to read and comment Marija,
      Lisa

  • 10/03/2013 at 11:48 pm
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    Thank you lisa for yet another post where I read what I needed to hear. I too have felt the thrust of angry little arms and have reacted in both ways, but I know which reaction left me and my son feeling better!

    • 11/03/2013 at 9:26 am
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      Hi Charlotte,
      Yes, I have had both reactions too, and like you I reflected on which one felt better. There’s so much trial and error, isn’t there? You probably remember that I wrote about trial and error in parenting in this post: http://lisahassanscott.co.uk/?p=568

      Thank you for stopping by,
      Lisa

  • 11/03/2013 at 1:11 am
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    Beautifully written. thank you so much for sharing this. I am hopeful that my kiddos will feel my love for them and remember it always.

    • 11/03/2013 at 9:24 am
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      Hi Heather,
      Yes, I too hope they will remember the love. I wrote here about what they will remember: http://lisahassanscott.co.uk/?p=391

      Thank you for commenting,
      Lisa

  • 11/03/2013 at 1:22 pm
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    Thanks for sharing Lisa. I found myself wondering as I read this whether I did that when my kids screamed or hit me in frustration. I think the answer is that I sometimes did – definitely more so when they were little and less so as they got older when I knew that they had more comprehension for what was appropriate. I was relieved to read your last paragraph that your aunt was not perfect – that she lost it at times too. Somehow to know that we all struggle some days is comforting and my hope is that even if my reactions have not been all patience and love, that my children know without doubt that they are loved beyond measure.

    • 11/03/2013 at 7:47 pm
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      Hi Sione,
      Yes, I think that bit is really important: she wasn’t perfect, nevertheless she was a great role model for me. Or perhaps she was a great role model for me *because* she wasn’t perfect and yet she showed her family so much love and compassion.

      I really appreciate that you’ve stopped by,
      Love,
      Lisa

      • 11/03/2013 at 8:53 pm
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        : ) xxx

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