The past week and a half has been an interesting time as I’ve been on vacation and thus able to spend almost every waking moment with my girls. In some ways, it’s been great. Olivia has a smile that can light up a room (and a laugh that’s so infectious you can’t help but roar in laughter with her). And, I can already tell that she’s living up to the credo of her name: she definitely attracts light and knows how to light up a room. Riley is just simply brilliant. The things that girl notices, says, and can already comprehend is astounding. She’s really got some brains on her!
But, it hasn’t all been fun and games. I’m not the most patient guy in the world, so forget trying to multi-task with the kids around. Some days it’s been just enough to find activities to keep us all engaged throughout the day. Others, my patience has run a little thin, and I’ve caught myself snapping at the girls for minor infractions. Like today for example, Olivia is on this recent kick where she wants someone to come with her to the bathroom constantly. I’ve gotten tired of it, especially given the fact that she’s asking me to do things she can already do on her own (i.e pull up your own pants!) Mind you, she’s still two, and just recently within the past year potty trained, but still. Every now and then, she’ll wait for someone to join her in the bathroom, at the risk of peeing on herself.
Today, here i was sitting in my favorite chair, trying to get some creative work done, having a good time while the girls went about their business playing when up walks Olivia, about to cry asking me to accompany her to the bathroom. Now, I know why she was about to cry, it was because she was also about to pee on herself and she knew it. She knew that she had a limited window between convincing me to join her, and the urine escaping. Frustrated, I yelled that she better go to the bathroom, then I went and hid (because usually that makes her give up the fight and just go already). But I could hear her whimpering in the bathroom, so I peaked around the corner, and sure enough there she was standing in front of the toilet. Before I could get the words to yell out of my mouth, she was peeing and crying at the same time.
And this wasn’t simply a defiant self-urination. Nope, I think she was genuinely afraid of what I was going to do. I almost couldn’t believe it (if I hadn’t experienced this before). I had to walk out of the bathroom to contain myself and pull it together. I wanted to yell, I was so angry. But all I could think about was how pitiful she looked. I made her help clean up her mess, and even though I could tell that she was as upset as I was, I resisted comforting her (and myself) until finally I couldn’t take it anymore and broke down and hugged her and told her I love her. I mentioned that I was still disappointed in her action, but I still loved her.
Here’s the parenting fail that I realized afterwards while decompressing (and the girls were napping). I didn’t see this, like any moment in my kids lives, as a teachable experience. Instead, I was momentarily clouded by my own anger and it took me a while to overcome that. Now, I don’t think irreversible damage has been done, I didn’t say anything stupid, and I didn’t do anything so egregious that I’ll regret later. However, it was a missed opportunity when it came to being able to minimize the lecturing, and maximize the self-learning my daughter could have done. I did most of the talking, instead of getting her to talk to me and share why this happened, and what she thought about the situation. In that moment, magnified the mistake above the person. Lesson learned for the next one.