Thursday, August 21, 2008

The freedom to be candid

My conversation with Audrey at lunch:

Audrey: "Mom, you're not the best mom in the whole world." [Out of the clear blue I swear.]

What I wanted to say: "WHAT?? This, after I just bought you a happy meal for lunch?? GIVE IT BACK!" Figuring that was not the mature response, I instead said ...

Me: (Trying to just take a deep breath, not be offended, and sound casual) ... "Really? Why am I NOT the best Mom in the world?"

Audrey: (Chewing her chicken nugget) "Well, you don't let me do whatever I want to do."

Me: "Well ... if I let you eat whatever you wanted to and watch TV all day and never go to bed, you probably wouldn't feel good after awhile. And it's my job to do what is best for you, not what you want me to do. When you're a kid, you don't always know what is best for you, and Mommies mostly do."

Audrey: "Oh." (I think some of my logic was pretty much lost on my almost 5 year old ...)

Me: "So, do you want a different mommy?"

Audrey: "No, you're still a good mommy, just not the best. But I wouldn't want a different mommy, only you. And if you died or something, I wouldn't have anyone to give me my juice in the morning. And Carter would cry because he was thirsty too, and I can't pour it yet."

Well now, I'm glad I'm good for something in her eyes, even if it is just pouring juice. Never mind the 8 bazillion other things I do for the kids all day!!! :)

I am grateful that God gave me the perspective to take this proclamation in stride. I could have gotten angry (which, some days I might have) or given a long lecture on how great I am (haha) but recently I have been learning some important things from reading a book called Grace-Based Parenting. I LOVE it. I try to read a little bit every morning to reorient my thinking and remember what's important in raising the kids.

Anyhow, one of the chapters talks about how important it is that kids have the freedom to be candid. This means letting your kids speak about what's on their minds truthfully, even if what they say is hard to hear. This doesn't mean that kids should be able to say whatever they want however they want to say it. That would be called rudeness and disrespect. But kids should, I believe, have the freedom to say what is really on their minds, if it is done with respectfulness. Today, Audrey's conversation with me was actually very respectful. It made me want to know - is there something that I could be doing better? I honestly don't think she meant any of what she said as a "slam" to me as a mom. I think what she was getting at was that she wished she could do whatever she wanted to do. And really, I can relate to that. Some days I wish I could sit on a hammock in my backyard reading a magazine and sipping a cold drink. Some days I wish I didn't have to clean up dishes or wipe noses or mediate childish disputes... but I do. And some days I'm sure she wishes she could paint when she wanted to paint, or that she could eat an extra marshmallow for dessert, or that she could go to the park when it was grocery store day.

Hopefully as time goes on, I will continue to have ears to hear what my children are really saying. Honestly, it really helps me to have a few minutes before the kids get up to turn my day over to God, and ask Him for His help. Otherwise, I'm not sure how I would have handled Audrey's comments today!


nateandkatesmom said...

You handled that very well! Nathan (in the heat of a meltdown) has said "I want a different Mommy". Because he's in the midst of a meltdown, I never take it personally. If I bring it up later when things have calmed down, he actually gets emotional and say's he's sorry and hugs me. It's funny how when you give them something they want you become the "best mommy in the world". But when things aren't going their way it's the opposite. I agree it's important to let them speak candidly and express their feelings. Those are pretty sweet moments!

Chris Ann Schultz said...

We've had a very rough week with Chantel bedtime wise. She still didn't really react the way your daughter did, inspite of losing things she needs to earn by good behavior, like T.V. which is summer is DVD and Video only and candy (treats). She still called me the best Mommy in the world at times. She gets excited rather easily. After reading some more of "How to Make Children Mind without Losing Yours" by Dr. Kevin Leman, I refreshed the ideas we needed to help Chantel be more cooperative and a lot of prayer daily to help me through it, without hurting anyone. :-) It was an exhausting week and hopefully things are on the mend.
Maybe do you think some of Audrey's questions relate to the loss of the neighbor's and thinking about how she would feel. I'm sure she loves you. She's honest.
This week we had to see through fear vs. manipulation. I believe the manipulation is over and the fear is being worked on. Appreciate your prayers for us with adjustment to school, ballet, and sleeping in her room, more easily.
Thanks for sharing your struggles. It makes me feel better, since I felt like the worst parent in the world this week, with my attitude and reactions to Chantel, she can really get under my skin, the count down to school is on! :-)

Mama Amy said...

The interesting thing about Audrey's comment was that she was NOT angry or upset about anything. Later on in the day, I brought it up at the dinner table w/ Chad, and she said "You are the best mommy! Well, almost the best mommy." I think what she was getting at was that there is room for improvement, which I agree with 100%. There are a number of things that I am "working on" as a mom. However, I feel very confident that Audrey feels loved and cared for, if not, I don't think she would have said what she did. I was glad she was NOT afraid that I would be angry or stop loving her if she said what she was thinking about. What she said really was more humorous to me overall than something to worry about. I also think that as Carter gets bigger she is seeing that my attention is "split" in a sense and is sometimes frustrated by the fact that she isn't always the center. But realizing that you are NOT the center of everything is a lesson that is best learned young!

ErinOrtlund said...

I like how you handled this, Amy. I'm sure it helped her feel more secure knowing she could be honest.