“You’re the baddest mommy ever forever!”
These were the screams coming from my four year old daughter on Thursday night as she sat in her bed, sent to sleep early after a particularly challenging evening. It was the first time she called me that (and no, she didn’t mean “bad” in the same way Michael Jackson did). She was mad at me, angry that the consequence I’d threatened her with had been put into action after she’d been warned multiple times.
While I licked my wounds (and a bowl of ice cream), I counted my lucky stars that the next morning we could easily kiss and make up. That’s the beauty of being four – life is still relatively simple. When she’s fourteen, it might be a different story.
As predicted, the next morning we talked about her epic meltdown and moved on. Well, not entirely. I’ve spent the better part of the past three days reflecting on what happened, questioning myself and the discipline decision we made on Thursday night. But, each time I start to question it, I remind myself of some parenting advice I recently received from a mom of three grown girls. “Commit,” she said. “Commit to whatever decisions you make because if you waiver your kids feel that and that’s when they start pushing back.”
At the time, I smiled and nodded but didn’t think much of it. And then, Thursday night happened and her words echoed in my head. Commit. Commit. Don’t waiver. Commit. As my sweet daughter kicked and yelled and called me bad, committing to the decision we made to put her to bed was the only option. Waivering would have been much worse, even though I questioned every second of it.
That’s the funny thing about parenting. No matter how confident you feel in one moment, that confidence seems to give way to self doubt just as quickly. Doubt goes hand in hand with parenting. “Am I doing the right thing?” “Should I give in?” “Maybe this wasn’t the best course of action…” Doubt cuts strong and deep and can poison your thoughts and approach quickly. On Thursday night, doubt pulsed through my veins as I laughed (one of those “if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry” kind of moments) at my daughter’s willfulness and strong words. I questioned everything, from the decision to put her to bed early to the way I explained the reason to her to how I responded when she pushed back. Confidence that we were doing the right thing remained present, but doubt lurked at every corner.
In the end, we stayed strong. Her in willfulness. And me and my husband in our choices of consequences and follow through. It wasn’t easy for any of us, but I think we are all better for it. At least, I sure hope so… (There’s that doubt again!)