As babies, for the most part, kids are loving squee-balls that giggle and coo at the sight of you. Mom and Dad are their favorite people. You know this by the way they light up when they see you and the delicious cuddles you get when you scoop them up.
Fast forward to age 5. Oh all right, I still get the most amazing hugs and kisses and snuggles from my girl. But now she has an opinion. About everything. Most of the time, my husband and I bear the brunt of these opinions. Mom and Dad never have the right answer, or provide the right play dates or play dolls long enough. The worst? We never let her do ANYTHING FUN! You learn, as your child ages and is better at expressing themselves, to have a thick skin.
For example, I recently volunteered to be a co-leader for my daughter’s Daisy Troop. I’m not sure what I was thinking. I thought it would be a simple volunteer gig, but there’s a lot of prep time and training involved. I just might be in over my head if it weren’t for my super-organized co-leader. We finally had a meeting last week to get to know the girls and introduce them to what it was going to be like as a new Girl Scout. We did a couple of crafts. It was cute. Well, did I get an earful on the way home about how boring it was! My first response was to defend the projects I had prepared and make promises that next time will be better.
But wait a minute? Just who am I trying to impress here? As a member of “Team Doing It All”, I felt like I had let one of those balls that I struggle to keep in the air drop. After a few moments of hurt feelings, I decided I wasn’t going to let her criticism bother me. If she wants to tell me that the activity I’ve prepared is boring, or that the pizza I made for her is too “tomato-y”, then that’s her choice. It’s not a reflection on the care and love that I’ve put into the effort of doing those things. I do this job for the long-term joy, not the short-term accolades. (Yeah, right. Those exist?)
In these situations is tell her that it hurts my feelings when she says things like that. She recently learned about being kind and “filling buckets” in her kindergarten class. For those of you unfamiliar with it, the idea is that everything we say or do to others either fills their imaginary bucket or dips from it. When you fill someone’s bucket by being kind, yours gets filled too. Since this is a concept she can relate to I ask her how she can change her words to fill my bucket instead. I want her to be thinking about how her words impact others and how she feels when she’s kind as well.
When she tells me I never let her do anything fun, or when she asks me why I’m wearing THAT to work, I go in for a hug and remind her to be a bucket filler. In my mind, though, I’m giving myself a mental head shake, bracing myself for when the teen years hit us.