Brynna has this new thing. It started last week when we were in the kitchen making breakfast. She had gotten up earlier and sat with me, played a bit and started doing some Kumon homework. The first thing she said when she came in to greet me that morning was “I’m gonna have a good day, Mommy! I’m going to be a big girl all day!” Of course, I was elated to hear the news of her plans (but let’s be honest, skeptical of the likelihood.) She had been right on track with her agenda of good behavior until she hit a snag with her math homework and didn’t want to do anymore. I think a pencil was “dropped” and I’m pretty sure the counter was kicked. When I reprimanded her for the behavior, BG burst in tears and cried, “I just wanted to be a big girl today!” (Cue mom laughter. Seriously. How am I expected to show empathy and guidance? She was hysterical like someone assaulted her and took away her big girl abilities.) As I tried to calm her down so we could get back to the matter of addressing the behavior and homework, she looked up at me, tear-stained and red-faced and said, “Can we start the day over again?” I wasn’t sure what that meant, but I took the bait and asked her to clarify. She wanted to go upstairs to her room and come down again. I agreed, and off she went, sniffling and snorting. About 3 minutes later, a bright-eyed Brynna came walking down the stairs as if it were the first time she’d seen me that day. She said good morning, gave me a hug and kiss and then informed me she was going to work on her homework. Just like that. She literally started the day over again.
It happened again Monday. Brynna has been dressing herself (please keep that in mind when you see us around town. I didn’t choose the color combo or the tank top in the middle of winter.). She was fully dressed before 8am, and greeted me similarly with plans to be a big girl all day. She started her homework without being asked, emptied the dishwasher without dramatic antics and was eating her breakfast – a feat in and of itself. She asked if she could finish her math in my bathroom while I got ready. I agreed, so there we were – two girls at the vanity mirror, writing numbers and applying mascara. Somewhere around #97 (out of 100), she decided that she didn’t like the way she wrote the number nine and erased them all. Then, she got frustrated because it still didn’t look “right” and now, instead of being almost done, several places were incomplete. I could see the storm on the horizon, and I encouraged her to take a minute and calm down. She, of course, saw no need to heed my advice and was soon in a full, dramatic meltdown. And when I say dramatic, I mean roll out the red carpet, Academy award winning, best performance by a 4 year old – dramatic. I sent her to time out, hoping she would compose herself, but instead, she sat at the bottom of the stairs crying loudly, “I just wanted to be a big girl, but I can’t make a nine that’s curved!” When I bent down and tried to talk to her, she clamped her hand over her mouth, but was still crying. In a new wave of exasperation, she wailed, “I can’t make it stop! I’m trying to stop crying but it won’t turn off!” In the midst of the tears and snot, she sniffed out “Mama, can I just start the day again?” I could see that we were getting no where with the current situation, so I agreed. She went up the stairs, still crying, to her room, where she turned off the lights and got all the way back under the covers. After a few minutes, she got up, brushed herself off and came back down. Again, she greeted me as if it were an entirely new day and none of the past 15 minutes had happened. She respectfully asked me to help her with a number nine, I did so and she went back to trying on her own. Once she’d finished her homework, there was a minor travesty concerning boots vs. shoes and she started the day over yet again. (Sometimes you need more than one redo.)
Here’s what I learned from Brynna:
* You can start a whole day over. Who knew?
* If you don’t like the direction you’re going, you don’t have to get more and more frustrated trying to fix it. You can stop, revisit where you wanted to go originally and try again.
* Sometimes you need to restart more than once. That’s ok.
And the biggest thing I learned…
As long as I (her mom) returned the greeting and allowed the day to restart, she was fine. It all hinged on me. Had I laughed or made fun of Brynna’s suggestion to restart the day, I would taken away a little bit of her desire to find solutions to problems on her own. Had I reprimanded her or been harsh, I would have crushed a little bit of the creativity that makes her unique. Had I brought up the past mistake, I would have taught her that forgiveness is conditional and limited. Had I ostracized her, I would have made her feel alone in her frustration.
Instead, I showed her that I’m here. No matter how many times it takes. I helped her see that it’s ok not to be perfect. It’s ok to feel overwhelmed and need a redo. It’s ok to lose it a little bit if you pull it back together. It’s ok to need to start again.