That Moment When: Pressured to Parent (A Certain Way)
The beginning of summer my family and my brother’s family drove over 1,800 miles in a surprisingly uncomfortable 12 passenger van with 4 adults, 2 teenagers, 2 school-age kids and a one year old. My five-year old, who absolutely hates being in a car for any amount of time threw us off guard as she pleasantly road in a booster seat from Minnesota to Memphis overnight. No whining or complaining to be heard.
This trip was one we were all excited about as we were seeing family who we hadn’t seen for as long as she was born, so over five years. I thought she would have some shyness, some apprehension but she welcomed her aunts, uncles and cousins with open arms. She laughed, played, and tried new things without a moan.
Day three, among the loud laughter and conversations, I could hear my child crying hysterically. I stopped what I was doing and ran out to find her with one of my aunts who was patiently trying to comfort her. She was hysterical and I couldn’t figure out what had taken place because I couldn’t even understand her through the sobs.
Apparently all the children received silly spray and she’d used all of hers as they were still running around playing with theirs. Everyone was trying to reason with her, tell her they would get her a new one, offered her drinks and other toys, etc. but I knew that the silly spray wasn’t the problem.
I was surrounded by family and some of their friends. People who have not been around my little one longer than a few minutes or days and I can tell by the looks on their faces that they assumed I was raising a spoiled, undisciplined child. You know the look. The look that says, “What are you going to do about the way she is acting…you’re the mom, show her (and us).”
I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit to the heat rising on the back of my neck; the feeling like I had to do something was becoming more and more intense with her wails. But I did something in that moment that I didn’t think I would under the pressure.
I waited to respond.
I thought about the day and realized that she’d been in the sun all day and played hard, harder than she ever had in all of her five years. We live in the frozen tundra and Memphis was 90 degrees by 9 am. She was flushed, sticky and I am sure everyone’s efforts were overwhelming her. I was too busy interacting with my family that I didn’t notice that she hadn’t been drinking enough water and didn’t take a moment of rest, which for this child is a must.
I’d missed it.
This melt down could have been avoided and this super embarrassing moment was brought by me. Now I know she is responsible for her emotions (as much as she can be for 5) and we work on that daily. I also know that kids have to let off steam sometimes. However, if you have a high needs/sensitive child…you know that emotions are always overflowing.
I thought about how she must be feeling; physically and emotionally and began to ignore the spectators. I asked my daughter to come to me. She came and I pulled her on my lap. I wiped her forehead and started fanning her as she started to calm down and relax. I asked her to tell me what was going on.
She began to go on about the silly spray. I let her tell her story and when she was done I calmly validated that it sucked that she used all of her silly spray and was missing the “fight” with the other kids but that she chose to use hers before the planned fight. I also told her that she was tired, probably dehydrated and needed a bath and some quiet time. She protested but I assured her that it wasn’t a suggestion.
We packed up the family and headed to where we were staying. I put her in the bath with her little brother where I can hear them laughing and splashing. I had her take sips of water, lay on the couch and watch a show in the air-conditioned house. She slowly returned to the kid I know.
I had to remember that I know her and that no matter where I am and who is around me I am her mother and I know what’s best for her.
Have you ever had a moment where you felt pressure to respond or parent a certain way? Share your experience below in the comments, would love to hear from you!