It has been a long winter. Lots and lots of working overtime and Sophie in a (semi-)professional theater production which means she gets paid and I drive and a new puppy and soccer practices and various lessons and all the usual (laundry and such) and the sophisticated mathematical problem solving that allowed us around the family dinner table at least once in a while complicated by picky eaters and school and homework and applying to high school (!) and middle school (!!). And now it is Spring.
Almost 5 year old Stella has become more than a handful. And all this grand thinking about competent children and being mindful of our relationships with them can feel a little suspect when parenting a handful. Sometimes the choices these competent little ones make just are not okay. Their behavior just needs to STOP. Like when you are riding in the car, for instance. When a child makes the exciting transition to a booster seat, the child simply has got to SIT STILL in the car. She cannot twirl around and upside down and explore the variety of ways she can weave her limbs through the belt while turning around to reach what's behind her and taking off her jacket. And putting it back on. She simply can't.
And so I warned her. I warned her that she was going to lose her right to sit in the big kids' car seat. And she blew it, so I told her she was going to have to sit in the old car seat for another day. Oh, and she cried then. She sobbed.
I've been reading Brene Brown's book about shame recently. And as Stella cried, I wondered, what have I done recently to let this not quite 5-year-old girl know how worthy she is? As I manage the world around her moving at mach speed, what have I done to support her to understand that she is not to be ashamed of her 4-year-oldness. The world tilted on me and I realized it was me that needed to STOP -- right about the time we parked, finally at home for the day.
Stella and I sat down together later that afternoon and we created a list: The Rules for Riding in Big Kid Car Seats. It turns out that Stella knew them all. I drew a picture (critiqued by 11-year-old Max) of what she should look like while riding, and wrote the words we created together. Then Stella asked for the pen. And she added her own rule. One I hadn't considered at all.
Brilliant. Competent. Not quite 5.
At not quite 45, I have a lot of catching up to do. Clearly, I will need to slow down in order to do it.
Here she is this morning, riding to school, reading the list we made -- which she chose to carry with her in the car. Look at her expert form! About half-way to school she said, "Hey, Mommy! I'm doing all the things!" Worthy of my time and love and attention. More powerful than shame any day.