Natalie threw it down today at gymnastics.
It was big, ugly and embarrassing.
And of course it all happened on the day her beloved Nonna came with camera in hand to watch Natalie do gymnastics.
And it was an epic, epic, EPIC fail.
Tears upon entering, then a refusal to do any sort of warm-up which led to me having to go into the gym area and sit against the wall so she would do the activity. I wasn't pleased with her non-compliance and with having to be THAT mom sitting in the gym, but at least she wasn't crying anymore.
But then it came to the end of class. Ugh.
She followed another little girl out of the gym for whatever reason and came to sit with me. Shortly after sitting in my lap the class began gathering together for their end-of-class game which is always finished with a stamp on the hand for each gymnast.
Of course, she wanted to go back in to play the game...so I let her.
But then she came right back out.
And then wanted to go back in.
Oh no. I was having NONE of that so I looked her square in the eye and told her to make a choice - either go into the gym and play the game or put her shoes on to go home. She ran excitedly back into the gym....and then promptly laid down on a mat with tears in her eyes.
Done. I was done.
I marched in there, picked her up off the mat and informed her it was time to go home and that there would be NO stopping at Chick Fil-A today. And if that didn't upset her enough, as I was putting on her shoes, she saw all the kids lining up to get their stamps. Not upsetting in and of itself obviously, but she was absolutely pushed over the edge when I told her that she was not getting a stamp today.
Wherever you are right now as you read this...I'm sure you could hear her wails. I was the WORST. MOMMY. EVER. because I didn't let her get the stamp. Was that a little harsh for a two-year-old? Perhaps some people might say so, but in my world-view...if you don't do the work, then you don't get to reap the rewards. Parenting for the next eighteen years compared to the next five minutes. Sounds good on paper but sometimes the most difficult thing to enforce.
But it was so hard. Because she was so outrageously angry. And my mother was there to see the whole thing go down. Natalie screamed on the way home - "Nastics! Stamp!" She was begging for a re-do - an opportunity to go back and do what she knows she is supposed to do.
The fit carried the entire way back home, into the house and didn't stop until Craig came home from running errands. He was able to get her calmed down, allowed me time to eat dinner in relative solitude and then took her upstairs for a much needed nap. By the time she finished her lunch and was heading to night-night there were lots of hugs, kisses and "I'm sorry, Momma" given out - obviously she was ready to move on from the morning's meltdown. Me on the other hand? I'm still shaking. My jaw aches from being clenched and my legs feel like I just ran 10 miles because I was tensed up for the entire saga.
I felt (feel?!) like an utter failure as a parent. And yes, I know that the other parents there have all been through similar tantrums like Natalie's, but...it's just different when it's YOUR child that's being carried out of the building screaming like a banshee and flailing like a fish washed up on shore.
One of the biggest things I have always struggled with in my life is my pursuit of perfection. I expect it of myself, of others and now, apparently from Natalie. Well, it's not that I expect HER to be perfect, but I expect her to behave appropriately because I'M "perfect" and instilling the right values and expectations in her. So by that measure, I failed today because I didn't set her up for success or respond appropriately to her emotions in a way that would encourage her to finish the class.
I know, I know, I KNOW. She's a toddler. They do things like this. It's just a phase. We can't always control everything they do and we can only control our reactions to them.
I understand all that - heck, I even BLOGGED about that last sentence awhile back when I talked about technology. But understanding it from an outsider's point of view and being right there in the thick of it are two entirely different things.
Of course after Craig got her down for a nap, he came downstairs to talk and I immediately swore off ever taking her to another gymnastics class FOREVER AND EVER, AMEN. Because THAT'S how angry, frustrated and embarrassed I was at her behavior.
But in reality, I'm terrified. I'm scared at how much I wanted for her to behave and be GOOD at gymnastics. I'm completely aware of how neurotic I'm being about a two-year-old's extracurricular activity. I get that I'm just a teensy bit insane for worrying this much about something that in the grand scheme of things will be terribly inconsequential. But I'm afraid of how much worse it's going to get as I watch her grow up, try out for sports teams, get cut out from a group of friends, struggle with schoolwork... It's not that I want to protect her from everything that is bad, but I want her to be the kind of kid that just naturally excels at stuff because I was that kind of person. School, sports and friends came pretty easily to me. Of course, there were bumps along the road but for the most part, I didn't struggle learning concepts, getting playing time or maintaining friendships. I want that for her because from experience, it's a pretty sweet life to live.
I should probably relax and have a cocktail to take the edge off.
So in closing...she will be going to gymnastics next week. It will be my 30th birthday so I might just let Craig take her while I go get my nails done.
But more than that, I think days like today are ultimately for the best. It causes me to reexamine my own parenting decisions as well as the motivation from those decisions. I'm forced to explore the reason WHY this incident bothered me so much - was it strictly from frustration, why did I feel embarrassed, what do I really expect from a toddler? It's these questions that are going to help propel me to parent Natalie more thoughtfully and with a broader view of the type of woman I want to raise. Of course I want her to be a remarkable young lady but I also know that if I put too much pressure on her that I will crush her spirit and cause such deep resentment from her to me. As much as it is against my nature, I must step back and allow her the freedom and luxury of making a mistake and then learning from it in order to become a better person.