Most days, I parent by the seat of my pants, hoping against hope that I’m not doing anything to screw my kids up too badly. The times when I look at my day and think “I’ve done a good job” are few and far between. I’m far more likely to think “Hell, I messed that up badly.”
But on Saturday, I had one of those good moments.
It all started on Tuesday, Lily’s birthday. By the time the cake and presents part of the festivities had rolled around, Ella had had just about enough of Lily’s birthday and all the attention Lily was getting, and she turned into a brat. After she ruined the surprise of two of Lily’s gifts, B warned her that if she did anything else, she’d be sent from the room.
But she just couldn’t hold it together, and Ella “accidentally” blew out several of Lily’s candles while we were singing to her. B escorted her out of the kitchen, and she retreated to the top shelf of her closet. After a while, I took her a piece of cake in the closet, but didn’t say anything to her.
She came out eventually and was pretty sullen for the rest of the evening.
We had Lily’s party on Saturday, and Ella was fine through the whole event. But when we got home and Lily started opening her presents and cards, Ella lost it again.
And that’s when I decided to try something different.
I took her back to our room and stretched out on the bed with her. While she buried her face in a pillow, I talked to her very quietly about how I knew it was hard for her to see Lily get lots of attention and presents. I didn’t say anything about how she gets lots of attention and presents on her birthday because I knew she didn’t want to hear that.
Next I told her some funny stories about her when she was a baby – like how she would only sleep in bed with me and if I wanted her to wake up, all I had to do was put her in her crib. That got her laughing. After about 10 minutes, I could tell she was feeling better, and we rejoined the rest of the family.
The rest of the day was stress and drama free, at least as far as Ella was concerned.
I felt really good that I had recognized what was going on with Ella – that she needed some extra attention – and had defused the situation. It was one of the times that I got it right.