A family bike ride to Moe’s became a drama scene on Sunday, but ended with some uncommon wisdom. Here is my true story.
“Amy! Amy!” I shouted up ahead as she turned her bike to cross the road right in front of a car. Riding a big girl bike, with no training wheels, and having just learned how to stop and jump off, Amy is still a bit rigid on her bike. Luckily the car saw her and was going at a snail’s pace anyhow, so he calmly stopped his car and smiled at us. But I was not in the mood for a smile. A brief wave of gratitude would have to do. Amy jumped off her bike onto the grass at the other side and as I approached her I started the reprimand. “You could have gotten hit! Why did you cross the road? You can’t just cross it in front of a car! I should spank you!” Did I really just say all that? My mind raced. When was the last time I spanked any of my children? Is that a technique that I even subscribe to anymore? But in this moment of stress that is what popped out. My I have work to do, yet I couldn’t calm myself down. Her life had flashed before my eyes and I was not able to gain any perspective yet.
Now she didn’t want to continue to ride her bike because she was too upset, so Jim hid it behind a bush. I put her up on the baby seat in my bike which we haven’t removed yet. I got on and started to ride, and wouldn’t you know it, a screw had fallen out and the seat was leaning to one side and scraping my bike tire. “Jim! Jim! Stop!” I yelled to him up ahead. What are we supposed to do now? We were more than a mile from home, all of us sweating, starving, hoping to grab some lunch at Moe’s across the street from our house, but now with a 4-year-old who has no transportation. Hmm. Jim, never losing his cool, decided to carry her at his side while he rode the rest of the way, until we could stop in at Trek, a few doors down, and have them repair my bike seat for the ride home.
Finally arriving, I was still edgy. We ordered, got the food to the table and Amy starts crying. “This isn’t what I wanted! I wanted a cheesy!” My ego was raging. What an ungrateful child. How could she be crying like this. I didn’t want to solve her problem by admitting that I hadn’t asked her what she wanted. I just wanted her to be quiet and eat what was there. I wanted to eat. Jim, came back to the table with his drink and said, “Amy, what’s wrong.” Her plea for help motivated him to get back in line and get her what she had wanted. Problem solved…kind of.
I had to take a break from this all. I went to wash my hand and in the bathroom, in a moment of sanity, I summoned my conscious parenting skills that I have been working so diligently to apply and asked myself, “How have I contributed to this? What role did I play? What is there for me to learn in this situation?” No answers seemed to come, so I went back…only to have the lady at the table next to me, who saw the whole scene, start to speak to me before I sat down. And here is what she said:
“You have such a nice family. It is in moments like these when they are crying or upset, that we can either validate their feelings, show them love and help them solve their problems or we can ignore them, or get upset with them and make them feel like their feelings don’t matter.”
She went on to say a bit more about her children who were grown, but I can’t remember the rest. So there was my answer. I didn’t want to validate her feelings because I was too caught up in my own desire to have control of the situation. I couldn’t see the bigger picture. Amy was tired and hungry too. She was frustrated because I had gotten upset earlier about the bike. She was in need of some comfort, but at that moment just didn’t know how to express it. Isn’t that the goal of parenting? To let your children know you love them, that they are important, that their feelings matter and that you care? Duh.
Kudos to Jim. He never lost his cool once through this entire event. As I sat down I said to him, “Congratulations, You have just received the Conscious Parent Award of the Year.” We laughed. I promised to order him a trophy. Lesson learned.