The Art of Ignoring your Child’s Displeasure

This past Christmas holiday, I spent two weeks at home with my family. We had nothing planned, nothing we had to do – in all it was the perfect vacation. And no, we didn’t get sick of each other or wish we could go back to school or work. No, we were not bored.

All in all, it was a wonderful vacation and I got to spend more time with my daughters than I have in a long time.

But there is one aspect that I found disturbing and fascinating at the same time: I couldn’t stand it when one of them was grumpy or showing displeasure.

Odd. Usually I just flick their dissatisfaction off my shoulder like dandruff. But it really bothered me if they would get upset when I told them to tidy their room, or no they can’t eat another cookie or they had to get dressed so I can wash their pajamas. Or no, we can’t go see Narnia again. The sulking would begin and my motherly hackles would start their ascent.

Now, don’t get me wrong. My children are not spoiled brats (at least not much of the time). But they are getting dangerously close to that perilous neighborhood called puberty. They have ideas of their own, stuff they want to do. God help me, they have their own agendas.

And this Christmas was the first time I came face to face with it. It wasn’t just that I was thwarting their needs – I was getting in the way of their own plans for the day.

It left me feeling disoriented, guilty, questioning my own agenda.

I don’t like to question my own agenda. My agenda has been crafted in the largest spaces in my mind, the result of precious time strategising about the best way to proceed. My agenda is queen in my house.

Hmmm. I am forced to concede that this may no longer be the case. That, as the years move forward, my daughters are developing their own inner dialogue, their own vision of how they see their day going. They are also caught in a hormone-induced emotional typhoon and sometimes don’t even know why they are unhappy.

I have to remember it isn’t personal (well, maybe sometimes it is, but I will happily ignore that little shard of realism). I have to hone the art of scaling down my own agenda for them, practise the craft of detaching myself emotionally from their every mood.

Puberty for a parent, I think, means stepping back just a little – enough for you to be within easy reach when they need you, but far enough so that they can flail their larger limbs without damaging you.

Yeah, I know. Good luck with that.

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