(This Hey! That Reminds Me! edition was inspired by Elastamom’s post Holland Sucks Sometimes)
In college, taking classes on child development – if my professors were talking about little knee grabbers (anyone under the age of 10)? I tuned out. I was never going to teach the itty bitties. Ever.
In my Adolescent Psych classes I was mesmerized by theory on the development of the brain and how certain areas were still not developed in a teen. The areas that control perceptions of permanence and danger.
Why I couldn’t understand that this would apply to my own children? At every stage of development? I don’t know. Major disconnect.
I breezed through parenting with my daughter. She was easy. Obedient. (Most of the time.) An angel. (Much of the time.)
Then I had boys.
Tiffany, at Elastamom, was sharing some struggles with her daughter. The phrase that struck me was, “She KNOWS better.” How many times have I repeated that phrase in my brain? Countless times. Biting my tongue, so as not to let it escape.
And then? An epiphany.
I read an article in a parenting magazine about impulse control in toddlers. Wait. Scratch that. It was about the LACK of impulse control in toddlers. How their tiny little brains simply could not resist temptation. The logical part of me nodded in agreement. The emotional side of me thought, “But they KNOW better.”
How many times had I asked the boys not to put their hands on the television screen? How many times did we warn them about climbing the furniture? How many times did we say: “Sit on your bottom,” “Don’t run in the house,” “Chairs are for sitting” ?
One afternoon, folding laundry on our breakfast room table, I had a clear view to the family room. My toddler son was watching TV and playing with his cars. His favorite character, Ernie from Sesame Street, was on. Showing his favorite toy, Rubber Ducky. He was talking about how much he loved his toy, how much he loved its squeak, the way it fit in his hand.
My son wanted to touch Rubber Ducky. You could see it in his eyes. He walked over to the television and started to reach out for Rubber Ducky. He saw his right hand reaching for the television screen. He took his left hand and grabbed his right wrist. I could see the tortured look of frustration in his eyes. His left hand trying in a futile attempt to pull back his right hand. And then, his shoulders slumped. Resignation. He let go. And allowed his hand to touch the television screen in an attempt to touch Rubber Ducky.
Then, he remembered I was close by. He looked at me with sad eyes.
He knew better. But he couldn’t help himself. That sweet little part of his brain wasn’t fully developed yet. One part understood the 100 times we had asked him not to touch the television screen. The other part simply wanted to touch Rubber Ducky.
I scooped him up in my arms and hugged him close. I whispered, “Sometimes it’s hard.” I felt his shoulders slump again, this time in relief.
Tiffany is dealing with something much bigger. Her child has Cri du Chat syndrome. But her struggle is real for all of us.
Our children know better. Yet they still fail. They still make mistakes. They struggle, just like us.
What is important, what is critical — is how we choose to respond.