Monday, July 23, 2012

Mommy Therapy

Last Friday, Addy and I paid a long overdue visit to my Aunt Brenda and Uncle George. They live only 25 minutes away, but somehow we only see them for the annual Christmas gathering and maybe one additional time each year. Growing up, I know we didn't see Aunt Brenda very often. She was my mom's sister, and I was a smart enough kid to understand that the two of them did not get along very well. Now that I'm older, I can make a good guess as to part of the reason why - Aunt Brenda has a knack for innocently saying the wrong thing, and I'm pretty sure my mom was the type to be easily offended. I, on the other hand, love my aunt for this. I'm a huge fan of brutal honesty, and you can count on her for that, even if she doesn't mean to say it the way it comes out.

Addy was having a good ole time rummaging through the baskets of toys at Aunt Brenda's house, but she kept trying to climb the bookshelf to get to the games on top. And she kept handling knickknacks that she shouldn't have been touching. And she kept walking around with this big glass-encased candle. And she kept spilling her water everywhere. And I kept correcting her and pulling her away from everything. Finally, Aunt Brenda said, "Have you spent much time around young kids Stacy?" to which I replied, "No." And she said, "Well you can tell." And there it was, that innocent remark that, taken the wrong way, could be very condescending and judgemental. It probably didn't take much more than a remark like that for my mom to not speak to her for months. But I'm not my mom...I said, "Yeah, I know, I suck at it!" What she really meant by the comment, and what she proceeded to discuss with me, was that I have no benchmark for judging Addy's behavior, and my expectations of a 20 month old are way too high. She simply said, "You need to lower your expectations Stacy. She's actually a very compliant child."

And she's right. Ever since I found out I'd be a mom, I've had this idea in my head of what my child would be like. She would be timid and quiet. She would follow directions, and answer to her name. She would always walk with me, never run off. She would be obedient, a perfect little angel. My child wouldn't be the one touching everything she can reach in the store. She wouldn't be the one screaming for the cookies that she sees in the cart, She wouldn't be the one that slaps people when she doesn't get her way. Nope, not my child. Afterall, according to my dad, I was pretty much a perfect little angel, so why would my daughter be any different?

The difference between reality and my expectations of her is a daily struggle for me. But my visit with Aunt Brenda brought me down a notch and reminded me that she is only 20 months old, and she's behaving exactly the way a 20 month old should be. Addy got to play in a new environment with Aunt Brenda encouraging her exploration, and I left feeling better equipped to handle the type of child she is - smart, playful, curious, rambunctious, and...normal.

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