As a parent, I often find it hard to forgive myself for getting frustrated with my child. I'll look back on some of my actions, or reactions it seems, and wonder what the hell I was thinking. Did I really need to get worked up when she wouldn't eat her lunch and wanted instead to use it as face paint? Should I have put her in a time out right away when she tried to bite one of us, instead of giving her a warning first? Was it really necessary for me to get mad at her when she tried to explain why the Star Wars prequels were better than the original trilogy? Ok, maybe that last one was justified.
The biggest piece of the puzzle still lies in our small, but growing, ability to communicate with and understand our daughter, and vice versa. Right now, how we understand each other revolves around a handful of words she knows: puppy, no, mine, and floozimflap (we let her watch a lot of Cosby). Everything from a door to the ring on your finger can be a puppy. Sometimes it isn't, and she'll let you know by saying "no puppy." Everything, and I mean everything, is "mine" to her. The book you're reading? "Mine." The colorful sock that you've been wearing all day, which you don't think anyone in their right mind should go near? "Mine (and she'll probably put it on her neck like it's a scarf)." The small wooden block that she hasn't looked at all day, but as soon as you pick it up becomes more valuable than all the air in her lungs? "Mine."
The funny thing is, we notice that she understands a lot more than she's able to say back to us. We will ask her to get her shoes before we go out to daycare and she spouts back "shoes," goes off to grab them and plops down right in front of you, waiting to be velcro'd up. If we notice she seems done eating a meal we'll ask and she'll nod yes, even offering up her plate for us to take away. But when it comes to understanding why she gets upset or frustrated, we're still speaking different languages. Sure it might be something simple, like we took a hacksaw away from her because, god forbid, we didn't want her making our kitchen table legs uneven. Or we decide that she's done eating dinner because, as much as we want to encourage her creativity, yogurt does not double as wall paint in our kitchen. But other times it's not so simple, and that's when Jodi and I just look at each other with wide eyes and shrug, or we (mainly me) might get frustrated as well. Why is it that she feels my leg, which is on the floor next to her, is in direct violation of some property ownership rights she concocted earlier with a piece of paper and a crayon? How were we to know that out of the 20 or so toys scattered about our living room, THAT ONE was the one she wanted right then and there?
From what I've been told, I need to start working on my philosophy as a parent. I need to figure out who I'll be: the good cop, or the bad cop. Am I Ponch, or John? Turner or Hooch? Officer Tackleberry, or Officer Hooks? I also need to determine my stance on discipline, and then do my best to stick to it. And yet while consistency is key, that doesn't mean I shouldn't be flexible either. I also need to learn that I can't always give Olivia what she wants. That I shouldn't get frustrated when there's no clear idea of what she wants when she's throwing a tantrum. I need to be there for her, provide what I can, and sometimes, just take a step back.
That last part just doesn't feel easy to me, and it's something I think I'll struggle with no matter how old she is. Letting her fail or fall so that she can learn from those experiences seems like a no brainer in theory. But in practice, not so much. Sure I want her to understand that if she leans too far over the side of a chair she'll fall, but that doesn't stop me from trying to catch her before she hurts herself. Teaching her that failure isn't the end if you don't want it to be, and that practice and dedication can lead to success no matter what you pursue? I still need to learn that myself. So am I a hypocrite for trying to convey that, or do I simply want her to become a better person than I'll ever be? Probably both.