Posted October 11, 2010on:
Up until now, I have upheld my principle of being honest to May to the best of my ability. I don’t tell her lies, even white lies, and I don’t make up things if I don’t know the facts. If I tell her fictional things, I let her know it’s fictional. If I have told her a wrong fact, I made sure to tell her the correct information as soon as I find out. If I have promised her something and can’t get to it, I let her know why I could not realize my promise, etc. etc.. Of course, with May’s age, sometimes telling her the truth does not make sense. I know this, and up until now, I was able to swim along just fine. However, with May’s rapid cognitive and emotional development this month, I’m at the point where things are getting a bit hazy.
Take today’s example. We were at Walmart (another indoor playground for May on Sunday, when everything else around here closes at 6pm) and there was a jeep on the ground. You know these $300 children battery operated vehicles. They are usually boxed and/or hung up high, and understandably so. But this one must have been a return or something, because it was smack on the floor. So I let May climb in to sit when she asked. May was in there having a ball for some good 20 minutes and showed no sign of wanting to leave. It was approaching 8:30pm and I wanted us to be home for dinner and bath in good time, so after I have asked her to leave (and she shook her head emphatically to answer me), I said, “I’m going to count to 3, and then I’ll open the door and we say bye bye to the car, ok?” (head shaking madly). “I’m going to count to 3 and I will pick you up, May.” (no longer asking). I counted, opened the door, took her out, and May burst into tears (I must say, she is so damn cute when she cries like this – she just shows all of her discontentment without being dramatic or bratty, I need to film her one of these days). I held her and tried to comfort her as much as I could, explaining to her that we must now leave because it’s late. She was still whimpering and fighting to get down on the floor, saying “down, down” (so she could climb back into the car). I asked her if she has had fun going out with me, and if she likes to continue to go out with me in the future (I have always asked her this same 2 questions at the end of our outings, ending with me saying I’m glad she has had fun and we will do it again in the future). When may heard the familiar questions, she stopped crying and answered me that yes, she has had fun, and yes, she would like to go out again.
I could, at this point, take her away and just leave – May’s easy in this respect – but I wanted to take the opportunity to set boundary for her since I am aware that she now remembers events clearly and thinks about them too. I want to, among other things, have her consciously agree with my rule/requests when we are outside, not just tricking or distracting her. So, I told her that in order for us to be able to go out and have fun, I need her to listen to me and do what I ask her to do; then I asked her to say bye bye to the car. She immediately burst into tears, wanting to get back into the car again, shaking her head at my request. I repeated my 2 questions; she stopped crying, etc., etc.. This went on for about 2x times, with May promptly stopped crying as soon as I asked her my questions, but refusing to say bye bye to the car.
I thought about it, and realized this is May’s emerging emotions. To her, she was unhappy to leave. When I told her we need to leave and go home, her mind could not register the connection between the 2 pieces of info because her unhappiness was blocking them out. She needed something that responds to her emotion in order for her resume reasoning. I tried a different message, saying that it’s night time, and we need to go home to eat and sleep, the car should go to sleep too, so we should leave (figuring that since she obviously liked playing with the car, she would care about the car’s well being). Immediately May calmed down and listened intently to me. She pointed up to the rack where bikes and cars are hung, and said “ca^’t” (put away). Bingo! I then repeated my message to her that we can continue to play with the car in the future if she listens to me when I ask her to do things. Right now the car is going to sleep, to be put away, so I want her to say bye bye to it, and then we are going home to sleep too. May calmly said bye bye to the car, repeating again, “car, sleep, put away.” And we left without any more tears shed.
When we left the store, I asked her if she has had fun going out (recounting all the evening’s events, ending with the car). May said yes, and then added, “car, sleep.” I told May that she has been very nice to let the car rest, and I am happy she listened to me in the store, because I need her to do this in order for us to continue going out and have fun. I think I’ll repeat this message to her routinely from now on. I am not counting on this to prevent tantrum-in-the-aisle in the future. I guess it comes with a child’s development so I’ll just take things as they come. What I am aiming for is to provide tools to help May deal with her own emotions. On principle, I’m just a bit concerned about this personification of the car needing to sleep. I don’t want May to think of the car as an animal, I guess. But at the same time, my heart is perfectly fine with what I did, and with May, I often listen to my heart. So I’ll figure it all out, sooner or later