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How a Stormtrooper Taught me to Be a Better Parent

My 4-year-old son has recently become obsessed with Legos, specifically Star Wars ones. My son takes at least one figurine with him everywhere. Before leaving our home, he asks me if he can bring X Stormtrooper with him, and I always want to say no because I want to avoid tears if and when he loses one of those tiny Lego pieces that are difficult not to lose.

In writing this post, I realized that I begin our days thinking like a Negative Nancy and set us up for failure. As I say yes to my son’s request, I am thinking things like:

  • My son is not mature enough to take good care of his toys.
  • The pieces are so small he is going to lose at least one piece.
  • All he is going to do is cry when he loses a piece, or all, of his toy.
  • I am going to be mad when it happens.
  • I am probably going to say less-than-constructive words to my baby boy when I am mad.

I travel the downward spiral toward the situation I expect, and guess what happened one day? The complaints I kept repeating to myself did happen, and almost exactly as I played them out in my head.

I had pulled into our garage from a day of errands. As I was parking our car, my son accidentally pressed the figurine’s gun, discharging and losing the bullet (which is the size of my pinky toe). He cried out, “Oh no!” and I replied, “Oh, well. You lost it. I am not looking for it.” I felt my frustration creeping into my heart as my son quietly cried about losing his bullet.

Leaving the bullet behind, we proceeded to go upstairs to our apartment. This is where loss number two happened. My son dropped the rest of the Stormtrooper through the stairs into a busy planter. He started bawling and again — only with more intensity — I said, “Oh, well! You lost it! I’m not looking for it.” I also added some extra deconstructive nuggets for him such as, “You’re just not mature enough yet.” My frustration grew as his crying continued. I felt cold like a rock, trying to drown out my child’s crying with my ego, which was repeating, “I knew this was going to happen.”

After babying my frustration for about 15 minutes, I decided to go downstairs to see if I could find the Stormtrooper and his bullet. While searching for the toy, I continued telling myself about how disappointed I was. My frustration was overpowering that I decided to stop searching after briefly looking for the toy and not finding it. As I headed upstairs — huffing and puffing from the disappointment — something (I later discovered it was my conscience) stopped me and asked, “Why are you doing this? If it is making you so unhappy to look for these toys, why would you do it in the first place?” These questions caused instant deep reflection. I replied, “Because I do not want to see my baby boy sad.” It was at this moment that a few very helpful things became clear to me:

1. Seeing my children sad may translate into frustration for me, so I need to be aware of how I’m processing that frustration.

2. I need to practice setting myself up for success instead of failure.

3. The question “Why are you doing this?” is an efficient question to quickly check my emotions and actions, and it helps me be honest with myself.

Realizing these helpful things gave me the positive energy I needed to look for the toys again, but this time for my son instead of in spite of my son, and I found them! Needless to say, we were both very happy.

Situations like this bring me back to the understanding that parenting is not having a clue of what will work, what will not, and a lot of growing up along with our children. There is learning and growth in everything we do.

Can I challenge you to find learning and growth in your next frustrating moment with your children? (I’d love to hear about them, too.) — Jasmin

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