I took a deep breath as I entered Chloe’s room, laying out her pajamas for the night. The day was almost over, and as trying as it had been, I hadn’t blown it with the kids. That fact gave me just enough strength to deal with whatever they would throw my way before they fell asleep.
However, as I walked into Caleb’s room and expressed my frustration that he still hadn’t picked up his socks off the floor, he responded with a question that caused me to take another look at the day:
“How many times do you think you’re going to be mean to me today?”
I stood bewildered for a minute and proceeded to ask Caleb what he meant.
“You yelled at me a lot today, so I wanted to know how many times you’re going to be mean?”
After I contemplated where he got such a grasp on sarcasm, I explained to him that he had been very disobedient today and that I did have to scold him a lot, but I hadn’t lost my temper with him.
Or had I? Now his comment had me doubting myself.
That comment and the comment his sister made earlier when she stated with disgust, “You just ruined my life.”
So during a day when I was praising myself for keeping my cool, I still had managed to ruin the life of a three-year-old and caused a four-year-old to think his mother was incredibly mean.
I decided to take a minute to look at the day from my kids’ perspective. When I told Caleb that he hadn’t acted right today, he pointed out that he did do many of the things I had asked and only disobeyed a little. While he had spent much of the day defying me, he was right–he did help a few times, too. He got on his coat and shoes when we were trying to leave, and he put Chloe’s boot on, too. He cleared the table of his dishes at every meal, and he helped set the table for dinner. When I looked through Caleb’s eyes, I saw many tasks that were completed and a mother who was still harping about those from earlier in the day.
I had a slightly harder time looking through Hannah Grace’s eyes; it was probably all those bright colors and butterflies that got in the way. In any event, when I tried, I saw a mommy whose heart I could melt if I just caressed her cheeks while saying,”I’m sorry, Mommy. I won’t poke your bottom tomorrow.” And in her eyes, that apology erased all of the defiant behavior from the day.
Of course, if my kids stood in my shoes, they would have seen time after time after time children sneaking cookies and TV; ignoring requests to clean up; and that strange incident of running circles through the kitchen, poking my heiny every time they passed me while I was talking on the phone to Hannah Grace’s preschool teacher…just to name a few frustrations from the day.
Where they saw fun, I saw defiance. Where I saw defiance, they saw examples of obedience.
And I saw that while I was right, so were they.
Yes, my children need to obey, but I also need to see all that they do that is worthy of praise. I need to step inside their little shoes and take a look at me. Who do they see? A mother full of love, or a mother harboring disappointment?
Perhaps that paradigm shift will make the difference.
And if not, I’ll just embrace the title of ‘the meanie who ruins little kids’ lives.’