Originally Posted in a Note on Facebook - Friday, March 5, 2010
The other day we were having a disagreement in our house - The girls wanted to play, and Momma wanted to clean. Correction: Momma needed to clean before pigmies took root in the hurricane disaster area that was the livingroom. The girls had also decided that nap was not an option - which happens sometimes, but last week happened more than most as a result of the changes in the girls' schedules because of March Break.
I tried in vain to pick up overturned toy boxes, crayons, bits of paper and other small things that got spread over the carpet in the last few days. Filling a box invited Maggie to dump it out, which got Winnie excited and they all started running around making more messes because, well that's just funny.
I stood in my livingroom watching them, getting more upset by the second. I kept nagging at them "Don't do that! Oh gosh! Can you pick that up??!! No no, not that thing I just put away!!". Finally, Winnie stopped and looked at me, realized that I'm not actually playing with them and having fun. And she began to cry. Not a fake "oh this is not fun" cry, but a "OMG I RAN OVER MY KITTEN WITH MY BIKE AND THE WORLD IS ENDING" cry.
Probably when this happens, a normal parent would want to coddle their child "Oh Suzie! What's wrong!! Don't cry!!!' But my kids can't usually answer to "What's wrong" especially when they're upset. They just can't find the words. I turned off the vacuum, took a deep breath, walked calmly over to the couch and sat down. I told Winnie (who was still bawling) to come over, and I calmly picked up her and put her on my lap, so that our faces were level. "Winnie? Are you frustrated?" I said. She took a huff and in between her sobs she said a heartfelt "Yes!". I nodded solemnly. "Yes, I thought so. Momma is frustrated too. How about we try our big breaths together?" and she said "Yes". So we started, taking our big cleansing breaths and blowing them out so our cheeks puff out and the air blows our hair around - which, to Winnie is the funnest part. Just this action takes our minds off our frustration for enough to let us rein ourselves in a bit.
After our breaths I said to Winnie "Winnie, do you want to play?". "Yes!! I want to have a party." she said. Now that she was calm, she could tell me a bit more of what she's thinking. I nod again and say "But we aren't having a party today. Momma has to clean today." to which she replied "Yes. A party. Just us. At momma's house." Oh good. A party that I don't have to invite people to. This I can do. Translation: Winnie wants to play, and she wants to play with Maggie and Momma. That's enough of a party for her. I told her "Ok. We can have a party. But first, Momma needs to clean.".
She jumped off the couch and said "No! You stay there Momma."
Feeling like I'd lost my hard fought battle and was not going to get the compromise I was hoping for, my shoulders slumped. Apparently seeing this, Winnie stopped and tried again. "You stay on the couch Momma. Winnie." and tapped her chest.
Confused, I made to get up. She comes running back "No momma, stay couch!" and runs back over to the vacuum cleaner "Winnie. Winnie this.". She stops and starts again, very obviously having trouble to say what she wants - to make me understand what she's trying to tell me. "Momma. Stay on couch. Winnie do! Winnie help! Winnie vacuum!" and starts to pick up the vacuum.
I ask "You want to help momma and vacuum Winnie?". I am greeted with the biggest smile and look of relief I've seen in a while. "Yes Momma, Winnie vacuum".
The next 20 minutes were a game, with the vacuum. Winnie helped vacuum the whole livingroom with me helping pick up straggling toys and Winnie doing her best to direct my efforts to where she needed them. When we were done, we were rewarded with Popsicles and games - and momma needed a small time out to breathe in and out and not cry at the wonder of her own child.
Understanding is one of the many things we all learn as we grow up. How to understand ourselves, others, their feelings and our feelings - and to know that your child understands what you feel and wants to help just as you want to help them is an amazing feeling. That feeling, and one of supreme gratefulness has flooded into the past few days for me. And brought to light once more how a seemingly small kindness and act of understanding and acceptance can have a gigantic effect on another human being.