By CL Bledsoe
I lost my patience with my daughter a few weeks ago. She had a cold, and when she has a cold, she gets cranky. This was before the current panic, but it’s been on my mind. I was trying to take her temperature, which she hates.
“Can I put (the thermometer) in water?” She asked.
“I just washed it.”
“Can I put water in my mouth, then?” She asked
“You can drink some water, but swallow it.”
About six hours later, we finished taking her temperature. Afterward, I told her I was sorry I was cranky, but I was worried about her, and she needed to let me take care of her.
“I know. I’m sorry. I’m just trying to fart right now.”
My daughter gets anxious. She tries to make everything she does perfect and then panics when it isn’t. With the quarantine, her anxiety is amplified. I can lose patience with her if I’m not careful.
We spent twenty minutes, last weekend, trying to get a picture just right for her mom as a gift. The picture was already taken, we were editing it because, “I’m not that orange!”
I get it. And I think it’s at least partly my fault. My go-to reaction with emergencies is to immediately panic, decide to run away, and then talk myself into a solution. This all takes just a few seconds, and it’s mostly internal, but I’m sure my facial expressions are hilarious.
I try to be patient, to help when its wanted. The hardest thing is to step back and not help. Because I really want to help. I want to solve every problem my daughter has without her having to ever be upset. That would be bad parenting, but it’s still my impulse.
With the picture, I let her work through it. We looked at various options and narrowed it down. She took a lot longer than I would have, but it probably looks better now than it would’ve if I’d done it by myself.
When I was a kid, the usual response I received to anxiety was that I was wasting someone’s time. I think my father thought I was being obstinate or stupid. I try to be more understanding with my daughter.
The way her brain is wired, she can come at things from unexpected directions. I was much the same way when I was younger. (Now, I’m just old and boring.) I would never want to shut down that creativity and individuality.
The problem isn’t that she thinks differently about something; it’s that I haven’t made space for her reactions to things. And sometimes that’s hard to do because it can take time and attention, which can both be difficult to come by.
And in the scenario with editing the picture, the problem wasn’t that it took a long time, it was the anxiety along the way. She wasn’t particularly happy with it, even though the changes we were making at the end were nearly indistinguishable. But we worked through it.
I don’t think I have this down. I’m working on it. I think that my daughter has to work at it, also. She has to learn to ask for help when she needs it, to trust others. But I have to earn that trust, also. We have our own routines and ways of doing things, together. I’m happy about that. We’ll keep working.