It is 6 in the evening. There are two ravenously hungry girls in our house and two exhausted parents. The dog is barking for attention. The pot of pasta has just boiled over. And that, my friends, is the moment my six-year-old daughter decides to teach her little sister how to jump on and off of the couch.
I freak out.
My husband freaks out.
No one is hurt....
except our daughter's feelings.
What we see at the moment is a potential trip to our local Children's Hospital. What our daughter sees is that we are unfairly punishing her only, and not also punishing her sister.
An hour later, I walk into my daughters room to see her teaching her little sister how to jump on a doll bed while doing some silly dance.
I am about to freak out, but something happens. The doll bed breaks. My daughter looks at me. I glare at her as she stumbles to the ground. Instead of yelling or chastising her, I simply pick up Little Miss J and take her to her room to put her in her crib for the night. I shut Miss M's door and walk away from the situation. These moments of frenzied excitement, I know, will only become progressively worse as Christmas looms in the distance.
Thirty minutes later, I return to her room to read with her before bed. Before we have a chance to pick out a new book to read, my daughter begins hysterically crying about how she always makes mistakes, how sorry she is for breaking the doll bed, and how mad she is with herself.
These are the moments that they don't prepare you for when you become a parent. What do you say to make her feel better? How do you possibly wrap your brain around the complexity of the emotion in the 12 seconds you are allotted to come up with a response as the crocodile tears stream down her rosy cheeks. I glance over to her books and decide to suggest reading Ramona Quimby, Age 8 by Beverly Cleary instead of directly addressing the tears.
Within moments of starting the book, I send an imaginary note of gratitude to Ms. Beverly Cleary. It is incredible how a book published in 1981 speaks not only to the young girl sitting next to me but is able to help me remember how incredibly unfair life can be when you are no longer a "cute little toddler"and grown-ups expect so much from you.
It is indeed easy to forget how children can feel that so much of what happens depends on them, and that they may indeed feel overwhelmed at times by our great expectations.
We only got through the first chapter tonight, partly because it was late, but also because the first chapter gave us the platform from which we could actually have a productive conversation about the way she was feeling. It was interesting to discuss Ramona's relationship as the older kid with her neighbor Willa Jean in contrast to how we had mostly seen Ramona as the younger sister to Beezus. Miss M can certainly relate to the dynamic of being the older kid expected to set a good example for her little sister.
We ended our conversation with snuggles. I promised I would be patient and try to remember it isn't easy. And Miss M promised to always keep trying.