This morning I spent several minutes cooking with, feeding, cuddling, and reading to my son. Then I came downstairs for an errand and while down there he found the garbage, pulled out wet coffee grounds, and spread them all over the kitchen floor, which my husband took the care to mop yesterday.
When I saw the mess I couldn’t believe it. There is no doubt in my mind he knows he shouldn’t do this. But I didn’t swat his bottom, handle him roughly, or speak to him in a mean or “big” voice, or even scold him, really. I put him in his crib and told him I was going to clean up the mess. I cried a little but not for affectation – it’s just that his disregard for my rules and his disrespect hurt my feelings sometimes. Then I remember he is only 2 1/2 and the best thing I can do is A. model self-respect, and B. take charge of the situation, handle it as best I can, and not play “victim” around him. And there’s even a larger lesson here: no matter what, for anyone in any case, I cannot control or expect respect from others. I can only hope for it and experience pain when I am disrespected.
Sometimes I long for the “baby days” of my children’s lives – where they truly did not know right for wrong and when it never would have occurred to me to be a Harsh Mama. Those days are gone and, in truth, opportunities like this are just another lesson in learning gentleness and acceptance.
After the mess was clean I went to him, looked him in the eyes and said, “No more messes with the garbage, OK?”. Then I held him and breathed deep.