Toddlers are not unlike adolescents in their quest for independence. A few days ago, my brother sent out a hilarious photo of my nephew dressed as a ninja, completely masked, during a visit to Target. Toddlers are not unlike adolescents in their mood swings. That same day, my usually sweet and bubbly daughter had a major meltdown at Trader Joe’s when she realized I would only buy one, not two as she demanded, bag of popcorn. She angrily flung a cupful of cookies and herself to the ground. Though I have been dealing with adolescents in my career for over sixteen years, it is moments like these that make me wonder if I have the skills to work with my own child.
My initial reaction was surprise. I knew she was upset but I had not expected her to throw anything. Recently she was disciplined for throwing a shoe (my budding political activist.) I quickly cleaned up the mess, got her to her feet, and headed to the cash registers with my wailing child. Both the cashier and I had little to say as I completed my purchase. I gave her a timeout and reiterated the no throwing rule.
A few hours later, I got an odd text: “Horrible parenting!” For several agonizing minutes, I pondered the significance of these words. Was I really horrible? I had done my best to remain calm and to do most of the verbal discipline in our car. Had I grabbed her too roughly? Had I shamed my child? I felt simultaneously helpless, guilty, and indignant.
Eventually I realized the comment was part of a thread in response to the funny pic of my ninja nephew. No one was criticizing my handling of the tossed cookies incident. But, as painful as it was, I’m grateful I was tough on myself.