Family Life

Parenting Hurdle – Being a Giant

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This is a phenomenon that I am encountering more and more with our “threenager.”*** In a meeting with a parenting expert the instructor talked about the height difference between us parents and our minions — er I mean children — and the effect that it has in our communication. It didn’t really hit me until I was able to relate it to the likes of a GIANT boss – who comes into your office or your bathroom stall for that matter and takes the soap out of your hand and demands that you go finish your lunch. It is kind of unsettling.  I like to picture Yao Ming just eye shaming me from above when I think I am being rad at something. Yup, that is pretty much how m feels when I stroll into her room – I mean sanctuary –  and question her motives for emptying EVERY item from her bookshelf onto the floor. She was “doing something” whatever that means, and why it involves 332 books is beyond me (don’t question my number of books…I like books, OK?). My point is that it can be so hard when you are so intent on a project or an idea and someone (mainly me) comes in and dream crushes…from 3 feet above your head. You don’t stand a chance. It is a crushing emotional blow coupled with physical domination. SOLUTION: get down on your child’s level.

The most common reaction that I get with m when I do this is her crawling into my arms. You see, at our house typically these disturbances go along with hunger, exhaustion, or a nice swirl cone of both. Each time that I meet her at her level and listen, I mean really listen (I usually repeat her words back to her so that she knows that I actually heard her), I can see and feel the tension in her dissipate and she usually wants to reunite with me rather than increase the gap. It still seems a bit counter intuitive to me that this little creature who seems so intent on NOT following my directions in fact wants to be wrapped in my arms, but thus is the mystery of toddlerhood (and apparently adolescence). They are trying so hard to get a handle on the world, but it so often seems like a slapstick comedy. I mean, sane people don’t color with black permanent marker on white duvets, but my kid doesn’t understand what the difference is between paper and sheets. She doesn’t have the life experience to understand why there would be a difference.  Everything is a physical test. Ever tried to explain to a toddler that they can’t breathe under water, that you can’t just walk into a pool? Well, I can tell you, they don’t believe you. They have to try it. That is why we have these phenomenal pictures of kids in obscure positions. They can do everything…until they can’t. But when their hypothesis fails, guess who they need most? That reassuring giant that towers over them. The same dynamic that makes us guardians so safe and reassuring, is also the dynamic that can deliver a crushing blow of disappointment or disapproval when they really need us.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not always hugging and reassuring m. Often I am delivering some sort of instruction or consequence, but delivering it on her level makes it less of an attack. It really helps me to imagine myself from her perspective. In my head it is kind of a fisheye view up to my face (very unflattering) with a finger wagging.

***I am not sure who coined this term, but it seem exceptionally fitting based on my current experiences and also given that I was recently informed that the lovely behaviors we are dealing with now will again resurface in the teen years because these are similar growth and exploratory times in a young person’s life.