Several years ago I wrote this post about toddlers and sharing. It is my most popular post by far, still getting several hundred hits every month. To me, some of the angry comments at the end of that post (including some of the incredibly insulting, trollish ones I didn’t approve) are evidence of how anger, dogma and blind retribution often prevails over empathy and connection. When it comes to dealing with our children, our most treasured and unique gifts in life, it strikes me as very sad. I shake my head and continue on my own path of as-gentle-as-my-human-limitations-and-upbringing-let-me-be parenting, and I worry very little about what other people say.
Those are the good days. And they are in the majority.
Then there are the days when my children are having a screaming match with all the windows open, thumping up the stairs in a rage, slamming doors, shouting, “I HATE you, you ignorant little twerp!” (Thank you JK Rowling for introducing that particular phrase to my household.) There are the days when I haven’t spoken to another adult all day and am trying to transact a single piece of business (buying a stamp at the post office) and my children are tugging at my threadbare cardigan, talking at the same time as the post office clerk, begging plaintively for little packets of balloons or loom bands. There are the days when they speak rudely, ask repeatedly, ignore me, hit each other and pretty much show off the worst sides of their personalities.
On those days, a little voice inside me says, “Maybe those trolls were right.” Maybe the people who said that I was raising a little tyrant had insight. Maybe when they said that my children would grow up unable to socialise, those commenters had heretofore unknown clairvoyant skills. Maybe they could tell the future, and the future is now!
This is the point when I drop my face into my hands and have a little cry and wonder where I’ve gone wrong.
But that little voice inside is really rather little, in fact. It is so tiny (and I have worked hard to reduce its size over the years) that the bigger, stronger voices within me know that this is only catastrophizing, hyperbole… and plain ridiculous.
None of us is perfect. When I was a kid, I remember thumping up the stairs, slamming doors and calling my brother names. Even now, there are days when I scream and shout and stamp my feet in anger, frustration or disappointment. When I was a kid I interrupted my parents all the time, wanted every toy in every shop and forgot my manners rather a lot. It took me time to learn. Even now, I get so wrapped up in my own enthusiasm that I interrupt people. We are all learning, all of the time. And if my children can’t express their less-than-publicly-palatable feelings at home, where can they?
I know that I am not the only traveller in the land of parenting self-doubt. It is at these times that I have to take myself by the shoulders and give myself a little shake. I have to turn my woeful gaze from my own personal pity party and look at my children, really look at them, and enumerate to myself all of the ways they are wonderful.
In The Hobbit, the curious thing that Bilbo discovers about the Mountain Trolls is that they turn to stone when the sun rises. Sometimes when we take the things those critics in the dark say about us (or our children), pick the lint off and lay them on the table, they look different. The fact of the matter is, when looked at in the light of day, those trolls turn to stone. They don’t know me, and they don’t know my children. I’m doing my best, staying true to my heart, and these kids are coming out just fine.
In fact, better than fine.
©2014 Lisa Hassan Scott.