Thursday, October 27, 2011

Internal Mommy Gear

Reese had her first time out yesterday for hitting another kid at Bible study. She and one other little girl are always fighting over the same toys, and I guess Reese had enough because she waited until G turned her back, and then grabbed a different toy and clubbed her over the head with it. Some moms might be inclined to think it was an accident - “Oh, she was just trying to hand it to her.” But I’m not that na├»ve. She clocked this kid. On purpose.
Immediately after it happened, I set her on my lap and said, “Reese Margaret, no no. We do not hit.” I held her there for about a minute, and she cried the whole time. After I let her down, I took her over to G and told her to say “sorry” not thinking she would actually say it. “Sigh-eee,” she said to her, which instantly melted my heart. As I rejoined the adult conversation, all I could think about was how terrified I am to have to add discipline to my growing list of parenting responsibilities.

From the day Reese was born, I’ve always said that I dread the disciplinary part of parenting. I believe in responsibility, accountability, and consequences, and it’s important to me that I find an effective way of passing those values to my kids. So it’s certainly not that I don’t want to discipline Reese. It’s that I feel completely clueless about how to find the strategy that works for me and for her. It doesn’t help me to ask other parents what they do because kids are so different and what works for them might not work for us. And it doesn’t help me to read books because the “experts” always try to make black and white instruction manuals out of topics with too many gray areas. It seems that whenever I seek advice, I always come out more confused (if that’s even possible).

Well, if my friends can’t help me, and the experts can’t help me, what’s left? I guess all that’s left is what I have in my heart, but now I'm wondering if maybe those are the only tools I need: 

·                   * Trust in my maternal instincts
·                   * Faith in my values
·                   * Unconditional love and respect
·                   * Forgiveness
·                   *Patience with my own mistakes in the process

Before today, I never sat down and thought about a discipline plan. I never said, “when Reese hits another kid, I’m going to do X, Y, and Z.” It just happened, and I responded from my heart. About an hour later, I carried her out of the car, and she said again, “sigh-eee.” Then we parked in the drive way and I carried her to her crib for her nap. “Sigh-eee, Mommy.” Okay, so maybe she doesn’t understand what sorry means… or maybe she really does feel bad. Maybe I'm showing a little bit of the "mommy bias" here, but I choose to believe the latter. “It’s ok, baby. Mommy loves you very much,” I said as I put her in bed. I left the room and silently wished for every future incident to go so smoothly.  

I know there’s plenty more discipline coming in the years ahead and many situations that don’t have a clear answer or ones where I end up choosing the wrong answer (and that’s where the patience with myself comes in), but yesterday I realized that maybe discipline isn’t a process to fear or a topic to research or an invitation for advice. Maybe it’s just like our ability to decode cries and grunts and mumbles, or the immeasurable love and patience we have for our children or our willingness to sacrifice so much of ourselves for them. Maybe it’s just another part of parenting that we all fear until we realize it's included in our internal mommy gear.

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