Monday, January 6, 2014

Another year, more reasons to smile.

I have such an amazing kid.

If I felt the need to qualify that statement, I would make sure to point out that there is no comparison or judgement intended, no thoughts of superiority or boastfulness, just an overwhelming and sincere adoration of the little person that sits across from me at the dinner table every night.

But I don't.

Lately, and often, I find myself struck by her thoughtfulness, her empathy, her eagerness to be kind and sweet and generous. And I tell her. Because if there's one parenting philosophy I subscribe to, it's that you can never say enough of the good stuff. And she loves to hear it. She gets almost shy as her eyes light up and a smile just tickles the corners of her lips. And I swoon. There is no other word. I swoon hard.

Yesterday we came across the word empathy and she asked what it meant. I explained that it had to do with trying to imagine how someone else is feeling as if you are the other person, rather than thinking about what you would do in their situation. Immediately, E responded with "Oh! I do that all the time! I do that with Noemie and Ayan, and Olivia!" It was as if being empathetic is just a natural thing you do with your friends. Because for her, it is. And I love that.

A few days ago she had an uncharacteristically long and intense meltdown in regards to the peeling of a clementine, which involved several (unsuccessful) trips to her room to calm herself down before re-entering society. Eventually, what began as a suggestion became a sentence, with the cell bedroom door closed, not to be opened except by the warden mom. I can only think of one or two times in the past when I've had to resort to outright imprisonment. There were a few moments of wailing, some pleading, and one request for Kleenex. But then all was quiet. She was in there longer than she has ever been before, and I won't pretend that I didn't relish the uninterrupted chore/shower time. But after about 30 minutes or so, I decided it was time for "the talk". I hate that part. I'm never confident that I'll get the important point across. There's so much pressure for this "moment of truth", when impacts can be made and behaviour can be molded, and more often than not I find myself yammering unintelligibly to a confused looking audience. But I went in boldly and calmly, and was…humbled, actually...by what I saw. I expected E to have found something awesome to play with, completely unconcerned about this alleged "punishment", throwing it gleefully back in my face as she announced that she was not ready to come out yet because she was having sooooo much fun. But instead I found her standing there, looking hopefully up at me, a once-pyjamad lunatic, now perfectly calm and fully dressed. All she wanted to do was tell me about the outfit she picked out because she knew I'd like it. The gold zippers on her pants that matched the gold buttons on her shirt. The shirt she knew I liked because I had bought it after noticing the little heart details in it. She was standing there so proudly, hoping for my approval. And she got it. I told her how proud I was that instead of pouting or playing, she had obviously thought about what had happened and had come up with something that would show us that she wanted to do better. That she was thinking not only of herself and her feelings, but of her place in the family and the role she could play. And we still had the talk, and I probably still talked too much, but I know she could see that she had figured out a way to make things right.

On another day, she mentioned wistfully that she couldn't wait to be a grown-up. It's not the first time she's had this ridiculous notion, and I always tell her the same thing. That while I get the frustrations of being a kid and not having a lot of control over things, most people I know would go back to being a kid in a heartbeat. And not necessarily because being a kid is so much better, but because once you're an adult, you'll never get to be a kid again. But kids are in the enviable position of having it all. They can enjoy the good parts of being kids, and look forward to the good parts of being adults. It's a win-win. I asked her why she wanted to be a grown-up on this particular occasion, and her answer was "Because then I can tell people what to do." Hm. I told her that that's one of my least favourite things about being an adult. "Really?" she asked, baffled. "Why??" And all of a sudden I got a flash of how she might see me…


…happily presiding over my minions, ordering them around freely to do my bidding.

I tried to think of a good explanation that would make sense to her. "Because it makes me feel like I'm bossing people around, and I don't like to be bossy." And, just like a good minion, she had the perfect response. "I don't feel like you boss me around, Mom." There's that swoon again. Can swoons be violent? Because mine are.

The next morning, I was presented with this lovely surprise in bed:

Translation: 
You never boss me
I always love you

God, I have an amazing kid.