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Sweatin’ the small stuff

May 19, 2008 - Erin O'Neill
Okay. So I admit I’m not exactly the ideal parent. Although I’ve read the manuals, the secret to perfect parenting eludes me.

But I do pride myself on generally being pretty laid back, able to roll with the punches, go with the flow, yada yada yada. I’m not really a pushover (my child hasn’t mastered manipulation yet). And I get cranky just like anyone else.

But I feel like I do a good job of balancing praise and punishment. I’m a big fan of the time out, even though when I was childless and hearing others talk about it, it seemed laughable. Like, what were they really gonna learn from sitting in a chair?

Then I read that the real punishment, at least when the child is young, is that you are taking your attention away from them and what they really want most is to be with you. For my child, it doesn’t matter that she’s in her room alone with her ginormous pile of toys. She wants to be with me. It’s heart melting, really, if you think about it.

Which is why it pains me to admit that sometimes my kid drives me nuts and it drives me even more nuts when people say, ‘Aww, she’s so good,’ ‘I bet she never misbehaves,’ or the classic ‘How could you ever get mad at a face like that?’ Well, that angelic little munchkin isn’t always as cherubic as she looks.

Case in point, for Easter I bought the kids some Crayola finger paints. They already had the markers and the paintbrushes that are ONLY supposed to go on special paper and are NEVER supposed to make a mess. The finger paints are clear, kind of like Vaseline, and just as greasy. They worked well on the paper but never really seemed to dry. Oh well. Big deal, right?

Until my child decided they would look better in her hair than on the paper. She walked into the living room a matted, greasy mess with a seriously guilty look on her dimply little face.

Now here’s the part of the story when I should have shrugged my shoulders, laughed and said ‘stuff happens.’ Because that’s what any good parent would do, right? Don’t sweat the small stuff.

Hmmm, well not exactly. A certain little person got a pain in the hiney, not to mention a good long soak in the tub and several shampoos with dish detergent (it came out after five washings) and mommy got a guilty conscience that probably won’t go away anytime soon.

I don’t believe in spanking and it really did hurt me more than it hurt her. I know this because she was her little bubbly self shortly afterwards, all smiles and hugs and kisses.

Of course this won’t be the worst thing she ever does and I doubt if she’s learned her lesson. But I have learned mine. I know that there is nothing in the world that my child could ever do that is as bad as all that. What may seem like a big deal, in the grand scheme of things, is really no sweat.

If only we could all remember that from time to time.


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