Learning from a toddler

Cooking in the kitchen, I realize it is alarmingly quiet, what is my toddler doing? I tiptoe to the living room and find her sitting on the dining table drawing. I feel impressed that she is up to good things, so I edge near to see what she is drawing, it turns out she is drawing on one of my sketches which I spent 2 hours on, the horror registers on my face, she looks at me and sees it, I can only manage one word, Shayna!

I take the drawing to check the “damage”, meanwhile, it is quiet again, I turn around expecting her to still be at the dining area, only she is not. Check her room, no sign of her, check our room and find her lying face down in bed crying silently.

My heart breaks, I associate this behaviour with teens not little girls who have mastered the art of tantrums. I expected her to scream n protest not walk away and silently cry by herself. This is a first, I feel like a horrible, terrible human being.

I get on the bed, tell her it’s okay, mommy is not cross, not at all. She looks at me through her tear stricken face, says calmly, “mommy you made me sad, please get out, I want to be alone”. I’m surprised at how well articulated she is for a multilingual 3-year-old and my heart aches some more.

I tell her, “I’m sorry but I cannot leave you alone, not when you are sad, can I hold you? She says no, resumes her face down position and the tears. So, I lay beside her and rub her back, she says not to touch her, so I lay there and give her space while letting her know, I’m there if she needs me.

10 minutes later, she is ready to talk to me. She says she only wanted to draw the sun. She has no idea what she did wrong! She repeats that I hurt her feelings. I feel worse about myself.

I should never have left my sketchbook where she can reach it. I should have encouraged this self-initiated drawing. I should have made it clear that my sketchbook is private.

I could have handled it better but it is hard to hide the horror on my face when I feel horrified. My last poem was about protecting her from parts of me she is too young to experience and how she has mastered my body language. It all just played out!

On looking at the drawing again, I see that she indeed drew the sun and maybe added more character to the said drawing. I wish I praised her for it, sigh! We have a conversation about what belongs to whom and boundaries. I apologise and give her a piggyback ride and peace is restored in our fairy kingdom. She displayed that she can be calm in spite of her emotions and a prefrontal cortex that is still developing. I feel proud of her.

Being a mindful parent doesn’t come naturally. It is a constant job of setting intentions. It is hard work overriding my instinctual reaction for a mindful one. marrying the parent I want to be and the parent I am. After being in close proximity throughout this whole lockdown, my patience naturally starts to wear thin but I cannot afford for that to happen, so I have to suck it up, have my umpteenth Cup of coffee n keep it together.

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