Much More Than Attitude

Maria sporting attitude

Maria and Mario have never been shy about their feelings.  If I upset Maria, she stomps away, sighing heavily, and usually blurting out some mean-spirited comment like “I don’t like you, Mom!”  If I upset Mario, he points his finger at me, crunches up his face until he looks like a 90-year-old man, and yells “No, mom, get away from me – I am mad!” 

I teeter on the edge with my response to these blow-ups.  Do I tell them that they may not yell at me when I sometimes yell at them and when they are, after all, part Italian (us Germans have no problem with anger management!)?  Do I allow them to yell but not make mean comments?  Do I let them get it all out and then ignore them until they calm down?  

 I err on the side of letting them vent but then I think about when they grow up and Maria is 30 years old in the corporate conference center yelling at the top of her lungs at her staff because they got her a coffee with three sugars instead of four or Mario playing in the finals of the World Cup and starting a  brawl with an opposing team member because he made a snide comment about Mario’s girlfriend while running down the field.  But is there a better result if I shut them up from the beginning? A heart attack from too much anger build-up? Fear of speaking their mind?  


Mario showing his attitude

I remember the “pre-kids” time of my life when I would be talking with friends who had their own children.  I spouted out all sorts of advice to their dilemmas: “I would smack their butt and put them in the corner; I would make them take a time-out for 15 minutes; I would take away a favorite toy: I would never let them talk to me that way.”  Oh yeah, that is a good one.  As if we have any control over that last one.  But what did I know?  It is not until those little munchballs arrive into your circle of life that you realize that all the advice and pre-conceived notions you had about motherhood and children was ridiculously naive. 

Just like I believe that it is impossible for me to understand the pain and exhilaration a triathlete must feel at the end of a competition, it is impossible to step into the shoes of a mom until you become one yourself.  You second guess all of the “sure-fire” advice you gave to your mom-friends in the past.  You worry about nearly every decision you make.    

So, in the end, I don’t think there is any “right” answer on how to deal with these “attitude” problems besides go with my intuition at the time of the incident and not doubt myself for the next five hours.  One thing I know for sure: Maria and Mario are happy kids.  They enjoy life.  They feel.  Surely, they get mad, sad, and disappointed, and they express it.  But they also, much more often, get excited, delirious, and captivated, and seeing them fully expressive in those states comforts me with the thought that I am doing something right.        

My Happy Girl

My Happy Boy

From Ecstatic to Miserable in less than 5 seconds

I decided to take Maria out to lunch this afternoon.  She has been begging me to pick her up from school and take her out to lunch since allegedly all of her other friends at school have parents that pick them up for lunch all the time (yes, I found out when I picked her up tonight that rarely anyone gets picked up just for lunch – she is already working me!).  I walked into her room, and unfortunately, she had just finished lunch.  I had not promised her I would be able to get her and I had not told her teachers I Iwas coming because they usually eat at 12:30 and I had picked her up at noon. 

Of course, this was the only day that they decided to eat early.  Maria did not share in my distress about her already eating – when I asked her if we should do it another day, she looked at me strangely and stated “Mom, I can eat again, silly!” 

Jon joined us on our way out the school door, and we went to Bob Evans.  We sat at the counter where Maria and Jon sit when they have their father-daughter dinners.  Maria beamed.  We decided to split  pancakes.  When the waitress asked Maria is she wanted bacon or sausage with her pancakes, she responded “Both.”  God love her.  Then we asked her if she was happy to come out with Jon and I and she exclaimed “Yes, I get another lunch!” 

After lunch, I took her in the stroller to the pet store and Target.  She sported a smile the entire way over to the stores letting me know what a great day it was for her.  We said hello to all of the turtles, snakes, rats, ferrets, cats, and dogs and then made our way to Target.  

“Mom, can I get a toy since I have been good this week?”  (Earlier in the week I had got her a toy because she had to endure four shots in one outing as part of her physical for kindergarten).  I explained to her, as I always have to do, that we do not automatically get toys every time we go to Target.  She blew me off and headed to the toy section.  She looked at barbies and baby dolls, sporadically calling out “I want this one, mom” but then moving on to a new thing within two seconds.  I told her I would get her something small (Yes, I have to learn to say “no” to anything – I am a work in progress).   I knew there was nothing she truly “wanted” or “needed” so I tried to reason with her to hold off on a toy until next time so we could get something bigger and better.  Yeah, right. 

We turned the corner to look in the doll section and there it was….  The Leapster.  The beautiful, glowing Leapter that she has been wanting for a few weeks now, especially because her cousin has one and she got a taste of it last weekend when her cousin brought it over with her.  She looked at me with those pleading, droopy eyes and puckered lips and begged “Please mommy, please.”  I responded with an understanding look and gave her hope by telling her that dad and I were thinking about getting her a Leapster for her birthday. 

“I want one now, mom.”

“Maria, that is a lot of money.  You may get one for your birthday.”

“No, mom, it will be gone by then.  I need it now.” 

“No Maria.”

WIth that second affirmation of “no”, she stomped down the aisle huffing “ugh!” the entire way.  I tried to console her but she would have nothing of it. 

“Get away from me mom.” 

I knew I should have let it go, after all she is four and a half years old – what behavior do I expect?  Nonetheless, I couldn’t help but feel sad and disappointed by her behavior. Here she had been treated to an afternoon out of school, a yummy lunch, a trip to the pet store and now she was acting like I was an evil witch.  How is that fair?  And now what do we do?  Leave to head back to school mad and grumpy?  I was so irritated me that I had taken off two hours from work and she was going to end our time being angry and grumpy.  

I immediately fast forwarded time to her teenage years knowing that this was a harbinger of what was to come.  Indeed, I remember how I was with my folks at that age.  So, I am going to have to learn that this is part of having a kid – you do all you can for them, you give them your entire being at times, and they still treat you as if you have failed to do anything for them since the day they were born.  Shake it off and don’t take it personally.  Impossible but necessary.

We ended up finding an ice cream game that I thought would be fun for her and Mario to play.  She calmed down and we had an enjoyable walk back to school even spotting a hedgehog at the bank of the river.  We gave our good-bye kisses after reading a book and I was off back to work.  I convinced myself on the way to work that I needed to be strong and not try to be Maria’s best friend.  I needed to teach her that she did not “need” toys all the time, that she had to learn that everything was not at her fingertips, and that she needed to have an appreciation for all she had in life.  In doing so, it was inevitable that she snipped at me, got mad at me, told me things I did not want to hear.  I will just call my mom and stepmom during those times and have them remind me how horrible I was back in the day! 

When I came back to the daycare later that afternoon, Maria was happy and running around with her friends.  Mario was also in a pleasant mood (Fridays are great).  His teacher grabbed me as soon as I went outside to get him.  “You have to see this!”  She asked Mario to come over and she engaged in the following dialogue with him:

“Hey Mario”

“What?” he responds.

“Hey Mario”

“What?” he repeats.

“Shake you booty.”

“No way!” He shouts.

“Shake your botty!” 

“Ok!” he shouts and jumps up shaking his booty and dancing around.  

It was hilarious, and I was so bummed that my video would not work on my phone.  He is such a lively, crazy little thing.  He comes up with the most hilarious sayings and engages in the silliest antics.  Our little jokester.  But, I am quite sure he will be pouting in Target someday soon, and I will feel that same sadness I felt with Maria today.  But today built up some resistance, and I have a sneaking susupicion that I will have plenty of times to build up even more resistance in the near future.