Monday, January 27, 2014

Mirror, Mirror On My Daughter's Face

One day, a friend of mine was visiting with her baby. Cadence was tired of playing on her own and told me that she wanted to watch a TV show. I reminded her that we don't turn on the TV when guests are visiting and she responded by saying, "I want to watch a show, RIGHT NOW." I assured Cadence that she would get her TV time and acknowledged that it was hard to wait, but Cadence just repeated her demand. This time, she stamped her feet to emphasize the 'RIGHT NOW.' I tried distraction, but my girl was persistent and continued to demand and stomp.

Cadence had been doing the 'RIGHT NOW' thing a lot in the past few days and it was getting pretty annoying. It occurred to me in that moment that she often imitates some of the more obnoxious characters she sees on TV and that could be the source of the current annoyance. I decided to switch tactics and test my theory (my money was on Quack the duck). So, I smiled and acted like we were in on the same joke:

"Who says that, Cadence? Who says, 'RIGHT NOW?'" (I even stamped and made a face for comic effect.)

Cadence smiled (she loves when we share a joke) and replied, "You say it, Mommy."


Man, I felt like a fool. Luckily, though, it was enough of a distraction that Cadence dropped her TV demands and moved on to playing with something else.

Kids take up a lot of time. I really miss having more time for deep reflection; time for thinking about how I can be more honest and gentle in day-to-day life; time to think about how I need to change. The trade off is that kids will sometimes cut through all of that processing by simply holding up a mirror.

When Cadence said, "RIGHT NOW," and stomped her little foot, it was maddening! Who was this little person telling me what to do?! I have never been a fan of being told what to do and my response to that kind of immediate, direct command is to not do what I've been asked, no matter how reasonable the request.

We could dive into why I react that way, but let's not. For now, it's enough to acknowledge that that is how I feel. And it's true, Cadence absolutely got the 'RIGHT NOW' phrasing from me. As soon as she said it, I thought of all the times that I had told her that we had to do something RIGHT NOW; that she had to put her shoes on RIGHT NOW; that she had to stop playing RIGHT NOW, etc.

The gift of all this is that now I have a better understanding of how my words, and the RIGHT NOW command in particular, affect Cadence - and just how ineffective they can be! I am more mindful of treating Cadence with respect when I'm making requests. I am trying to treat her the way I would want to be treated. It's the Golden Rule, but somehow it's easy to forget, when dealing with children, that they are also people who are affected by the way you saying things and who deserve respect.

When Cadence called me out - in front of my friend, too! - I felt embarrassed and ashamed. I also had to laugh. There is just no escaping the truth with little ones. I hope that Cadence will always be that frank with me and continue to hold up the mirror. She keeps me honest.

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The image I used for this post is Mother and Child by Mary Cassatt. The first time I became aware of Mary Cassatt's work was while visiting my sister-in-law in Vermont. She was working at the Shelburne Museum which has a collection of Mary Cassatt's paintings depicting mothers and children and mothers nursing their babies.

Quack the duck is from Peep and the Big Wide World, one of Cadence and my favorite TV shows.