Sometimes motherhood will surprise you. Sometimes you’ll be going about your business like normal and your kids will teach you something about yourself. Sometimes it comes in the form of a temper tantrum in the middle of the mall on your birthday.
I turned thirty on Monday. It was a long and at times really annoying day, like any day. To try and turn our grumpies upside down, I decided to take the girls to the mall and get a big fat, sugary cookie (look below and you’ll see I’m not kidding).
We stuffed our faces with sugar, window shopped a little (including a stop for momma to try on bathing suits–uh, never a good idea on your birthday), Sam tried on shoes, and we headed up to Sam’s favorite store, Claire’s.
I let Sam wander around for awhile before I gave her a warning that it was almost time to go. She obviously wasn’t seeing anything she was really in love with. I asked her if she wanted to pop into Forever21 on the way out to see if there were any little accessories she liked in there. That was my first mistake.
She wandered around Forever21, oohing and ahhhing over earrings before she decided she wanted to go back to Claire’s and check out one last thing. Instead of saying no, I let her. I don’t know why. Don’t judge me.
We went back to Claire’s. I told her we needed to make it quick because I wanted to get home and get dinner started. She started grasping at random things to buy: Hello Kitty cotton candy, neon-colored clip-on hair extensions, and finally fake glasses. She needed the glasses. Needed. She couldn’t tell me why or for what but she begged and asked incessantly when I said no.
I came incredibly close to saying yes when I saw a sign saying $6. For a second, I thought it was worth the price of leaving the mall swiftly and without incident. When I realized that they were actually $12, I knew I had to put my foot down.
Well. A major grump fest complete with crossed arms, stomping, and the meanest attitude she’s capable of mustering is what I got.
For a second, I was absolutely furious at her. How could she be so ungrateful? How dare she be so mean to me. What made her think that every time we go somewhere it’s her privilege to get something?
The problem isn’t her. The problem is me. She’s six years old. Most of what she knows is because I taught it to her. That includes any expectations she has. She expects to get something when she pouts and begs for it because I give it to her. She doesn’t expect to hear the word “No” because I so rarely say it.
Don’t get me wrong. Samantha is a good kid who thrives on rules. She gets in trouble so infrequently because she is a rule follower. It’s just a part of her personality. I can’t exactly blame her for not understanding why she can’t get everything she wants when I’ve taught her that she can.
But the thing is, it’s so much more than this. I’m not only a pushover with my kids, I’m a pushover in general. I’ll do anything to avoid a conflict and it stretches into all areas of my life.
That’s when it really hit me. I’m not only teaching my six-year that I’m pretty much a doormat. I’m teaching every single person I come in contact with that very same thing.
Every time I do something just to appease someone and avoid an uncomfortable situation, I’m teaching them that I’m weak. I’m teaching them that if they push me, I will cave. I’m teaching them that I am a person who doesn’t stand up for what she wants or believes in. I’m teaching them to take advantage of me.
I don’t want to be that girl. Not with my kids. Not with my friends. And certainly not with strangers.
So I’ve decided I need to be more forceful. That doesn’t mean uncompromising or mean. But it means that I need to do things because I want to do them or because I think they’re right. Not because of someone else or a confrontation I’m hoping to avoid.
And I started right there in Claire’s. We left empty handed and Samantha did not get to try on another pair of shoes on our way out through Macy’s. Small steps, sure. But small steps lead to big changes.