Loving the Little Lies

Yesterday afternoon, I had an upset with my girl.

She told me she needed to go the bathroom as we were pulling out of the school onto the road. Love it when that happens. This time, I told her, “Well you’re going to have to wait.”

She was fine for a while, but then the alarm went off. “I have to go really badly.” Pulled over to a gym we attend, sometimes. She returned walking sort of funny, but I didn’t make sense of it. After driving for a while, I smelled pee. “What is that? Did you pee your pants?” I was a little upset that she was sitting in the car in that manner but got ticked off when she fibbed about it and then fibbed again about having cleaned it up or not at the gym.

Fibs like this are, of course, a normal part of growing up. Dishonesty was never tolerated by my Dad when I was growing up, and I don’t have much tolerance for it, either. If an adult lies to me, I will still be respectful with them, but the boundaries are going up. It’s the ‘When people show you who they are, believe them.’ mentality Oprah espouses. It’s generally true.

But little kids are learning, and, if they feel like they will get in trouble, they are even more apt to fib. She didn’t tell me, I concluded eventually because she thought I would be mad. Not really. I told her, “This was partially my fault. You said you needed to go, and I could have stopped sooner. But that doesn’t make it okay to not tell the truth. You know that the one thing that upsets me more than anything is dishonesty. That will never change.” Okay, the last line was the delusional, “I don’t want to ever have to bring this up again.” comment. Silly me.

To top it off, she used a drawn-out, cutesy voice and said, “I’m so sorry, Daddy.” That was the wrong thing to do! I then lectured her strongly on apologies being about truly caring and respecting people and to never give fake apologies. Wanted to give her examples, but I kept my mouth shut.

Later, I said to her, “Would you like a Daddy who lies? Would that be a good Daddy for you?” She said no. She gets it. Her heart is so good, and she does care. As always, when I get ticked off, I reflect later on how could I have handled myself better. There is always a higher way. The fact is, even little fibs really tick me off, and I need to apply love, look at my part in it, give my growing girl a break on this, and create a very safe place for mistakes to be okay – so she feels comfortable telling me.

Of course, even with that, sometimes they fib just because they don’t want to have to deal with what you’ll tell them if they fess up. They can’t have the candy. They have to get up and go put the shoes away. They have to give something back. Love understands those feelings. The ego skips right to moralizing.

She has the right Daddy, but Daddy can work on handling this subject in a more loving way. At least a little. Even my Dad, who is the kindest man I know, said that about the only thing that really gets under his skin is when someone intentionally deceives him. Of course, he wasn’t talking about a four year-old!

Progress for Both, One Day Later…

A little sweet follow up. Tonight, she was exhausted. She got back late from her mom’s to start the week, had a late night dance performance on a big stage the day after. Long play date today. All catching up with her, which is why I gather, she once again had an accident. Very unusual for her. Only this time, she came out of the bathroom and immediately told me. On the way out of the story she said, “This time I told you.” I knelt down and hugged her thanking her for being open and truthful. “Yes, you did. Thank you. You can always tell me things. Thanks for letting me know.” Despite me getting upset last night, me telling her that if she had just been forthright with me it would have been okay registered with her. She tried me out to see if I would in fact be accepting.

Later, in bed, she had a hair piece in her mouth, which she knows is not okay with me. She started to fib, and, instead of reprimanding her I said, “Do you want to end your day with a lie and a breaking of trust?” She said no and fessed up, handing it to me to put on the shelf. Improvement on both ends.

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“Don’t wait for someone to save you.”

The teachable moments never stop presenting themselves, it seems. You think it’s just going going to be ‘regular’ start to a day, but then an opportunity presents itself. When they have to do with personal power, I generally don’t let them slip by…

This morning, I was in the shower, the glass door fogging up, when I saw a little smiling face poke around the corner. Surprised me, because she fell asleep a half hour late, and I anticipated having to dress her in bed. She was ready to go!

We traded places. She got in as I exited, having greedily used up the majority of the hot water prepping for a better day than the last two I had created. “It’s going to get cold soon!” I said, implying she ought to scoot.

A couple moments later, I was in my bedroom getting dressed when I heard her whining. “It’s cold! It’s cold!” Here we go… a small but important teachable moment about personal responsibility and exercising her power to choose, albeit a cold one.

“Well, what are you going to do?” I called out, walking over. Quieter whining ensued. She was not getting the hint. At the shower door, I prompted her again. “What do you do when you don’t like something?” She replied, “Stop! I don’t like that!” That’s a phrase we’ve rehearsed many times for her to use when she feels like someone is crossing a line with her boundaries or with what she feels like engaging in at a particular moment. Credit to her last preschool teacher for introducing that. It was not, however, the conclusion I was hoping she would reach this morning, in the ever-colder shower.

Finally, she got the message. If she was going to change the situation, she would need to exercise her own personal power. I was not going to come save her. She pushed against the shower door but found it difficult to get out. Still, I didn’t physically help; just another prompt. “Turn around and press against it with your butt.” She stuck with the hand pushing approach and got it.

“Don’t wait for someone to come save you, Bellina. When there is something you want to change, do what you can.” It will apply to her for the rest of her life, just as it does for every person. If help comes, it’s a bonus. Either way, it’s up to us to create the results we want.

With that, we walked off into the sunrise, enjoying a sweet ride to school. She chatted with a feathery bird ornament I got her for her boldness last night at Panera’s, and I enjoyed the beautiful nature drive while listening with interest to her sparkling imagination…

“Daddy, you’re my friend.”

We were at Panera’s for dinner. I was still feeling off underneath from a flat couple days and a stressful afternoon, but it was hard not to smile and laugh with her hamming it up, dancing and making faces while she ate. Two special moments were poised and ready…

The first was when, out-of-the-blue, she said…

Her – “You know, Daddy, you’re my friend.”

Me – “Yeah? Why am I your friend?”

Her – “Because you’re learning about it.”

Me – “Learning about what?”

Her – “Loving.”

Wow. Don’t remember what she added onto that when I probed for more.

She’s right. That’s what I’m learning about through parenting. It’s a paradox because I already love her more than anything I could ever articulate, but I’m learning about how to be unconditionally loving in the thick of being a committed parent. Saying “I love you” may be sweet, but it’s easy. Conscious parenting is about your way of being and your involvement day-to-day. Our best days are, simply put, the days when I am in my most loving space with her, joining her in the space in which she almost always resides. She, obviously, already has this all figured out.

Although I have my off moments as a parent, including tonight when I got very frustrated with the sight of clothes, shoes and the remnants of snacks left out in the great room, I am largely in a good space, and increasingly in a very warm, connected and playful space. If I were to graph my growth in being loving in the thick of parenting challenges, it would show a steady incline with, admittedly, some spikes. Regardless, it bodes well…

The second moment was when I prodded her to go up to the counter by herself on the other side of the restaurant and ask for a to-go box.

“You say… excuse me, may I have a to-go box, please.” We’ve been doing little boldness sorties like this for the last few months especially as I’ve noticed some social shyness. She was feeling good and ready for the mission. “I’m going to be fearless!” she said. Beautiful. Off she went. When she was about twenty feet away, she turned around in the middle of the restaurant, pumped her fist and scrunched her face as if to say, “Yeah. I got this!” I chuckled, but, on the inside, my heart beat out “That’s my girl.” in M.O.R.S.E. code.

Moments later, I saw her fingers pulling herself up over the counter. She returned proudly with the spoil from her quest, and I was ready with both arms in the air celebrating her courage. Only problem was that it was dirty. “Go ask for another one.” She told me she could just wipe it off, but I insisted. “You deserve a clean one.” When she got back, I said, “That’s it. Do you deserve good things?” She said yes. “Yes, you do. Don’t settle. Okay?” She nodded.

Telling me I’m learning about love and that fearless fist pump. Moments to remember…

Tough Lessons for Both of Us

DSC01960Wasn’t in my best space when she came up to me with an advent calendar I gifted her and asked “Which one do I open?” Both of us were in store for a hard lesson.

It had nothing to do with her, but I had experienced the afternoon prior to picking her up as unusually stressful. The wash machine flooded four rooms, and, when a friend didn’t stop to help, I let that throw my mood and schedule off. Did an okay job of not transferring it to her when I picked her up from school, but I was still on edge.

“Today is December 6, so you need to look for the number six. My recommendation is that you find a book with numbers in it and use that to figure out which one is the number six.” She was already tired after a long day at school, so it maybe was pushing her a bit, but, being the type who likes little challenges, she went with it.

Moments later, she came back with an Italian vocabulary book for children. We found the section on numbers, and she promptly asked which one it was. “I’m not going to tell you. You figure it out. Use your brain,” I said in a matter of fact manner. In a better space, I might have said, “Let’s figure this out together. We can do it!” Unfortunately, that vibe was sorely lacking, and I didn’t have much patience for her running her finger around the book guessing. “Come on, you know these. Don’t just guess! Start at the beginning. One, two…”

It took a long time, and I was no Mister Rogers. That’s the rub in parenting. Sometimes, you have such a great intent with an idea but then your way of being as you implement it sort of negates it. She squirmed about, looking visibly uncomfortable by my serious nature and the displeasure in my tone. I should have seen that as a sign that I needed to lighten up, but instead, I found it irritating. “No. You’re guessing. Stop that. Use your brain. Stand up straight and start over. One, two… come on.” She stuck with it and figured it out. Okay. High five.

As she happily munched the chocolate, I reviewed what we had done. “I didn’t just tell you the answer, did I?” She shook her head no. “You wouldn’t have learned anything that way. How did we do it? First you figured it out in a book using your counting and then you used the design as a map to find it on the advent calendar. You figured it out.”

Two points for not just handing her the answer and giving her another reference experience of creative problem-solving. Two points off for being a teacher whose way of being caused stress for her. At dinner, I asked her how she felt during our exchange. “Sad.” She usually uses that word to describe when she is off. “What can I do differently?” She said, “Be happy and fun.” Indeed.

The lesson for Daddy there is to just not try to be a teacher when I’m feeling off. It’s very important to me that she feels relaxed, happy, and enlivened by the learning process. Oh well. I guess I have to give myself a little bit of a break after a tough afternoon. I’ll keep nudging her to think for herself as I have since she was an infant, and I’ll commit to doing a better job of making sure I teach from a warm, accepting, encouraging place…

Being a Grinch Paid Off

DSC01953We did a lot of Christmas decoration browsing yesterday. She saw a hundred things she wanted, but all our store stops wrought her only new socks and a candy cane ornament, which she bought on her own.

“That ornament is cheap and big. It’s not going to remain on the tree because you’re going to want to play with it, aren’t you?” She squirmed and smiled, which was a yes even though she said, “Noooo.” So, I told her that if she wanted it, I’d buy it, but she would need to pay me $2 for it at home. She has a piggy bank for saving and another one for ‘fancy and whim’ purchases. “I’m not going to buy something that is likely to break in a day. If you want one of these other ones, I’ll get it.” She chose the one she would buy and plopped it in the cart.

Back home, a couple hours later, she went right for her room. “There’s one!” she said, placing a wrinkled up dollar in my hand with a big smile. My heart melted. This little girl giving me money for a Christmas ornament. What a Grinch I’m being. Wanted to say, “Oh, that’s okay, honey.” But I knew that was not best. She’d save money, but lose lessons and the chance to cultivate an abundance mindset with money. “Thank you. That’s plenty.” Off she skipped feeling good and powerful. She had kept her word. She had exercised her own freedom to choose. She had experienced herself as having enough and being seen as such a person. Excellent! All important seeds to nurture for a free and satisfying life.

The subject of money is not something I spend a lot of time on with her, but I touch on it here and there. This one worked out well for both of us. She was empowered, and I had no frustration when I saw the top of the candy cane ornament yanked off and chipped an hour later.