Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Practiced Values

The pale blue blankie in the background is Violet's. And don't you forget it.

About one minute out of our driveway, Violet realised she'd forgotten her blankie. The timing of our trip was carefully planned, and I calmly told her we'd get it when we got home. This resulted in a full blown tantrum.

I resisted the urge to threaten her with the classic, "Don't make me stop this car..." line. I did ask her calmly if she wanted me to stop at a neighbour's house and have daddy pick her up, as I didn't have time to drive her home to get the blanket. In hindsight, I probably did have time, and probably should have turned back, but had dug myself into that "follow through" hole by declaring that I was NOT going to turn back.

For twenty minutes, she screamed, I want my blaaaaaaankiiiiieeeeee!! in her most shrill voice.  Jude had his fingers in his ears, I turned the radio up a bit, and breathed deeply through my nose. So many responses floated through my head. Yelling, screaming, threatening, coercing, and bribery all raised their hands as possible choices.

However, I've just finished reading Brene Brown's Daring Greatly, and something really stuck with me about wholehearted parenting. She writes about "aspirational values" vs.
"practices values". For example, if we want our children to understand that it is wrong to hit others, we shouldn't slap their bum when we're mad. Seems like a no-brainer, but I'm uncomfortable admitting how often I fail to model the behaviours I encourage in my children.

I may be a dog who is getting older, but it's always helpful to learn new tricks in this circus we call parenting.

 I talked Violet through her feelings, listened to her, responded calmly, for twenty whole minutes (yes, I was watching the clock). I talked with her about what she loves about her blankie, about how she feels when she holds it, and offered her my scarf as a substitute. We talked about how we can only control how we respond to disappointment and "bad things", and that sometimes we can't control what happens to us. We talked about our 5-days-of-rain camping trip last summer, and how we had to make the best of it because we couldn't change the weather.

I felt like the most amazing mother in the world! 20 minutes of patience, and voila, her spirit was intact, the blankie was forgotten, and I'd modelled how to process our feelings and deal with disappointment! I was already picturing the moment where I was handed the bouquet of roses while a tiara was placed on my head as I received the Mother of the Year award.

Then I realised my bank card was at home.

Oh, Brene Brown. Thank you for writing your wonderful book.

My normal reaction would have been to shout, swear, cry, and talk angrily to my kids when they whined about the promised french fries that we'd no longer be getting.

I may have said one or two swear words. I'm not perfect yet.

Then I asked for a few moments of quiet so I could try to figure out a way around our problem. I drove to my mom's friend's house to use her phone. She wasn't home. I found a pay phone and called my husband to get him to transfer money to my Visa, just in case. The process wouldn't go through till the next day. I drove to an ATM on the off chance that I could fool it into letting me use my Visa instead of a debit card. No such luck. Darnit, those ATMs are smart!

I gave up, and headed back out of town. Then I thought, why don't I go to the grocery store and see if they'll run my card through just to see if I could access any funds. I wound my way through the downtown, and finally arrived at the outskirts on the other side. After the subtle  JANET TO CASH TEN!! announcement over the PA system, I almost-tearfully explained the situation to the manager. She told me they don't even accept VISAs.

 My kids were taking in all my optimism and deep breathing, all the while crossing their fingers for French fries. I told them we couldn't get anything. I was Debra Winger in Terms of Endearment, except John Lithgow did not step up to rescue me. Then the kids had to pee.

So, I did the walk of shame to the grocery store restroom, praying that I wouldn't run into anyone I knew because I figured I'd burst into tears if anyone talked kindly to me. I had a bit of time to think about why I felt shame...just in case Brene ever reads this.

We headed home then. I told Violet that I felt inside like she had when she realised she'd forgotten her blanket. I felt like crying and screaming and whining and kicking things. But I knew it wouldn't change things. My head was throbbing with the effort, I can tell you. I got us all home, sniffing back tears at the waste of time, at the fact that I'd used up two hours of the kids' weekend, at the idea of having to go out again to get groceries later in the day.

But I didn't freak out! I wish I had Brene Brown's phone number. She'd be so proud to know that her book had such a profound effect on one little family. 

When we got home, Robin hugged me as I whispered, "I need to figure out how to release the pressure that's building in my head!" (cue the waiter arriving with a gin and tonic, a cigarette, and a whole lot of chocolate...I recognized that wish as a desire to numb my feelings. See Brene? I get it!) I washed the dishes, then called my dad who made me laugh, and poof, it was gone.

It just became a story to tell, and no longer held the power to upset me. And I also have a reference point to share with Violet the next time she freaks out. 

Do you hold aspirational values that you find hard to practise? 


  1. Wow, what a story! My wish is that I could stop yelling...I feel that pressure building and building. I do deep breathing and count to 10. But then after 20 minutes (or more) of screaming like that, something snaps in me and I yell! Then I feel awful, of course, and my 3.5 is crying "don't yell at me Mommy!" Ahhhh....I need to read that book. Going to look for it at the library right now!

  2. This post was fantastic! Thank you so much for sharing. Yes I do have aspirational values that I find hard to practice. I try on a daily basis to do what you did but some days the whining gets the better of me, or the hitting, or the running into the streets. I think I'll pick up this book!

    Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Great post! So well written. I am sending it to Brene herself. She needs to read it :-)

  4. Done....just sent her an email with a link :-)

    1. You're hilarious. I actually sent her a message on her fb page...with a link. I didn't realise this post would be about her book but it's great to read a book like hers, apply some of what you learn, and then realise that it can change your life in some small or large way!

  5. Thank you for this post!! Amazing. I need to read that book!!

  6. Daring Greatly has been sitting on my bookshelf for weeks and weeks. This morning I woke up praying for endurance and compassion for this long day ahead....I needed a restart 3 times and still feel like I could use at least a few more.

    Your experiences mirror my own. It's a relief to see how other really wonderful Mamas keep fighting the good fight and, as much as we might teeter on the brink, there are often times where we're spared the turbulence.

    I think I'll start that book tonight xo

  7. Think I'll start reading that book... Whining, hitting, scratching (from my youngest) gets the best of me, too, and my unfortunate response is to want to yell. Deep yoga breathing usually goes a long way towards stopping that, but some days are really tough.

  8. OH - I lOVE this post. Love. True love. I had SUCH a similar day a few weeks ago. After lots of deep breathing and carefully constructed conversations with a VERY grumpy 4 year old who basically moved through the grocery store like a blob of leaden pudding, after maniacally bouncing a baby on the brink of meltdown through a long line up, after calmly redirecting my grabby handed older sloth as we rang up all the groceries, I realized I had no means to pay. Left my bank card at home. My 4 year old burst into the hysterics I wished I could employ as she instantly realized our next stop (to pick up her bday piniatta) would not be made. SERENITY NOW. I love your description of the resulting headache - self control hurts :) Oh, parenthood stretches us. Do you know what helps me? I have done two 12 day Vipassana meditation retreats. I completely suck at daily practice, but those 24 days in my life I have spent in silence meditating have had a very lasting effect. I am usually able to just turn my tantrums into headaches :)

  9. I loved this post and found it very inspiring. Thank you for sharing.


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