Here I am in the midst of learning something new again. Life’s lesson isn’t over just yet, despite my appeal for a fall break. I’m still questioning, arguing with circumstances and not understanding why my six year old daughter reminds me of a 16 year old girl, I use to know. What is going on?
Kennedy likes routine. She likes the expected and the familiar. She’s learning to adjust to change and surprises, but it’s not an easy adjustment for her. This might (very likely) mean that I am the same way and together we navigate the unknown with anxiety.
On Monday, after picking her up from her grandparents house, she says “Mom, why didn’t you tell me I was coming here today?” Obviously, she wasn’t paying attention when I told her. Or did I tell Sam and hope she over heard so I could avoid her protest? My memory isn’t totally clear about this.
I said “I did tell you - last night.”
“No mom, you told Daddy and I heard what you said, but you didn’t tell me.” Kennedy helped me remember exactly what happened.
I could have seen the signs for the upcoming emotional unloading, but I guess I wasn’t paying attention either.
“Mom, we are different. We don’t always think the same. I don’t like the way you do things either Mom. I’m not saying I don’t like you, but I wish you were different, too. I wish you would play in the dirt with me outside and jump on the trampoline.” Kennedy is incredibly articulate. I have never said to her “I wish you were different,” but I wonder if my constant corrections are giving her this message?
I felt like someone just punched my stomach. I actually could barely breathe. I remembered yesterday how we both rode around on the gator, picking up branches after the boys knocked down cedar trees. Isn’t this the same thing as playing in the dirt? My eyes were directly on her when she was craving an acorn squash on the front porch. Isn’t this the same thing as playing in the dirt? It was a dirty situation.
“Kennedy, I understand. Are there also things about me you like? Can you think of the things that I do with you, rather than focusing on what I don’t do?” After all, I want her to realize that our thoughts become our feelings and our actions. Did I just correct her again?
“Mom, I like that you play with me in my room, but it’s not outside. I don’t like just sitting and listening to you read me books either. That is so boring. Mom, I don’t like how many times you tell me you love me. I already know that. You tell me like hundreds of times each day.” Kennedy answered my question, which I wish now I wouldn’t have asked. Well there is one thing I am doing right - playing with her in her room occasionally (when I’m not feeling the urge to clean it).
Again very calmly, I told her “Kennedy, I love you. I feel it more than a hundred times each day, and I will always tell you how much I love you.” But now I started to cry….how could she ask me to not tell her I love her?
I felt a space open up in my mind. Is she making a request for me to coexist with her……no toys, no time limits, no books, no words…..just be? I think she is.
Of course my crying, led to her crying, and her crying led to her outburst. I just let the outburst exist without any detour.
We started our dinner and casual conversation with Sam. About an hour later, she told me “Mom, I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings. But I’m not a baby.” (Tears came to my eyes but I didn’t let them fall down my face).
If I was watching this in a movie, I would recognize that this is the part when the mom understands what her child is asking. I wish this was a movie so I could objectively see all perspectives. But this isn’t a movie, and in my real life, I don’t understand these things that quickly.
Yesterday I went with her class on a field trip to the San Antonio Museum of Art. A few times during the visit she told me, “Mom, you are embarrassing me.” I didn’t understand it. I wasn’t wearing my plaid joggers after all. How could I embarrass her?
As a group of 7 girls was leaving the bathroom, I held open the door. She said “Mom, I am not a baby. Stop following me around.” You see, I was a chaperone on the field trip. It was my job to follow the kids around. And doesn’t Kennedy see that her demand to be treated like a child, rather a baby, is more embarrassing than me opening the door for them?
Today I pledge to treat Kennedy as if she was 6, not a baby. I don’t know exactly what this means, but I still make the pledge. I also pledge to stay strong with my commitment to respect. How will I balance this: teaching her how to respectfully communicate her requests with “treating her like a 6 year old?”