When I first got divorced, I realized within about two seconds that single parenting is extremely difficult. While my experiences as a single mom have empowered me, they have also challenged me and pushed me to my emotional limits.
You see, I have what people refer to as a “strong willed child.”
We live in the heart of the city and like to go for walks. The other day while out walking, a man passed by us and said, “Good morning.”
“Actually, you were supposed to say afternoon,” she snapped back. “I mean, it is 12:07 p.m. That’s afternoon. P.M. means afternoon.”
I love that my child is sassy like this and I hate that my child is sassy like this. I mean, I have been given the gift of this vibrant, bright, social child in my life, who makes me laugh and brings so much joy to me and others. But man, she can also be as strong-willed as the day is long.
I could probably dedicate every single blog post from henceforth on to the subject of parenting a strong willed child. But that would be depressing, so I will try to just get to the point on this one.
I found myself losing my temper with my child in uncharacteristic ways when she turned four years old. I decided to take her to a child psychologist. I mean after all–it had to be HER that had the problem, right? I was hoping this psychologist could knock some sense into her sassiness.
After every weekly session, I would ask the psychologist, “So, how did it go?”
“Fine,” she said.
“But, did you talk to her about her behavior? Like how to fix it?” I questioned.
“Well, for children of this age, we mainly do play therapy,” the psychologist explained.
I didn’t know what to think of this. I mean I was paying money to this woman to play with my child? Heck, give me that money back, and I’ll go play dolls and board games with her myself. And, I wasn’t noticing any changes in her behavior.
No changes, that is, until the psychologist invited ME into the play sessions.
She explained to me that I was supposed to play with her and not ask any questions, but rather reflect back to her with statements. For any of you reading who know me, this task is extremely difficult, because I have one of those personalities that adores questions. So if she got angry about something, instead of asking her, “Why are you so mad?” I was supposed to say, “Wow, you seem really angry,” or something to that effect. At first, this felt really fake to me. I wanted to yell, “What is wrong with you!?”
I did play therapy sessions with my child for almost a year. During this time, I realized the value in playing with my child and giving her my undivided attention, but even more than that–I saw that it was ME who needed help–not Aliana.
I gained confidence in my parenting by having the psychologist observe me and provide me with feedback as I addressed a temper tantrum. I also learned how to resolve conflicts by observing the psychologist interact with Aliana.
During a session once, Aliana got upset while playing a board game and was blaming me for her loss.
“Blaming people doesn’t solve the problem,” the psychologist said to her.
The next time Aliana had a meltdown that involved anger towards me, I repeated the same statement, “Blaming people doesn’t solve the problem.”
And even though me saying that didn’t calm Aliana down in that moment–it calmed ME down. It was like a light switch had flipped on in my head, and suddenly, I had been given WORDS to say that I believed in. These words gave me patience, which was what my child needed–she needed a patient parent to respond to her meltdown, not an angry one.
And I kept saying those same words to her all the time, and still say them to her all the time. It has made me feel sad at times, because I realize that I was, more than likely, the one who modeled blaming people for her in the first place. It’s always been something I’ve struggled with throughout life. It’s been easier for me to blame someone else for feelings I have, instead of taking responsibility for my emotions and growing up. Saying these words to her also helped my 30 something year old self realize that I needed to apply this truth.
One day, my mom and dad recounted to me that they were arguing about something petty in the car, and Aliana suddenly piped up from the back seat, “Blaming people doesn’t solve problems!”
My proudest parenting moment EVER. ❤️ Because seriously, even if that’s the only lesson she ever learns from me, that is one of the most useful I could possibly give her.
In light of everything happening in education today in the state of Indiana,
In light of the violence in our city,
In light of the war in other countries,
In light of any and every conflict I’ve ever had within myself and with others,
Blaming people doesn’t solve problems.
What does help me solve problems, however, is eating good food. I made this soup last week, and I had it for leftovers all week. And that’s saying a lot because I don’t like leftovers.
It’s from a girl I follow on IG named Lexi and she has a website/blog called Lexi’s Clean Kitchen.
Turkey and Kale Soup
(Did you know you can massage kale? That is not a typo in the recipe.)
This is what it looked like when I made it:
And here’s a photo of my daily dash of sass, who has taught me to not care so much about what other people think.