As a mom of young boys (2 and 4), the beach offers us the best of many worlds; I get to read and watch the surf (one of my favorite past times) and the boys get to run, explore, dig for hours on end and enjoy their continuous snack from breakfast to lunch (seriously, cannot keep them away from the cooler!). We all get to enjoy each other's company without distractions. Best of all, there's no better way to get kids ready for an afternoon nap than packing in a morning at the beach!
I've fallen in love with our summer lifestyle and I'm full of gratitude for an important reminder on accepting praise that I experienced at the beach late last week.
While packing up our bags and equipment after several very active hours on the sand, my four year old launched into an epic meltdown. He had wanted me to rinse off his flip flops before we walked up the beach but he wasn't interested in my repeated explanation that they'd only get sandy again on our walk. I turned to make my way up the beach, hoping he'd give up and follow.
I wasn't surprised to find that he didn't. He's one strong-willed kid and I knew, had I continued to resist his meltdown, scolding him with a "Stop it right now!" like I have many times before, he would have literally and figuratively dug his heels further into the sand - ready to battle. I knew he was tired and the poor kid had reached his breaking point with the wind and sand - he wanted me to just take care of it, no matter how irrational it was.
Looking to preserve my sanity for the walk up the beach with two cranky boys and a ton of gear in tow, I did some quick thinking.
I put my bags down, fished out a net from the beach toys bag and summoned my very best Mary Poppin's voice as I said, "Whoa, Ben! What's this? Do you EVEN know what this IS?", as I walked back towards him.
He stopped screaming briefly, wondering why I was unaffected by his tantrum. He scowled at me (because, #coolfactor) but stayed quiet. I was starting to get somewhere.
I kneeled down in front of him and said,
"This is a magic net...watch this, when I tap you on the head, it will turn you into Happy Ben, wanna try?"
He's a smart kid and I admit, sometimes I try a redirect like this but it comes off as condescending and he smells that from a mile away. But, this time, my voice was different...I was killing it in this mom moment. Patience in check.
I reached out and tapped his head with the net with a huge smile on my face. He grinned but didn't fully break. I tried again, tapping his head for a second time. He broke out into hysterical laughter. His two year brother followed...both of them belly laughing in the cutest way possible.
Knowing these moments only last an instant sometimes, I quickly gathered our things up again and sang,
"Ok, let's go, Happy Boys!". We headed to the car and had a really calm drive home listening to music.
I can tell you wholeheartedly, things DO NOT always go this way. I am not always on my game. I get tired, cranky and short tempered. My 4 yo digs in, we go head to head and I don't always think clearly. But, I work every damn day to show my kids the grace, understanding and compassion they deserve as they learn how to navigate their emotions.
I truly try my very best. Some days, my best shines through. Others, I struggle.
Honestly, I'm just happy to string together as many of the good moments as I can, knowing and accepting that the tough ones ARE inevitable.
But, this weird thing happened when other people tried to compliment me.
When the boys had erupted into laughter in that moment at the beach, I looked up and caught the gaze of two older women who were sunbathing behind us and had watched the whole situation go down. They were incredulous and nearly gave me a standing ovation for how I had diffused the situation, saying how perfectly it was handled.
My impulse was to offer something self-deprecating like, "Well, you should have seen us yesterday..." or "It doesn't always go like that!" or something totally exaggerated like "I'm the most impatient mom out there!".
I don't know why we adults do this deflection of praise. Who does it serve? The person complimenting us? Ourselves? Who would honestly feel better about the exchange if the person being complimented made excuses for why the compliment wasn't warranted? Doesn't it seem silly when we think of it like this?
"You have pretty eyes!" ---> "OMG, no, I'm so overtired" or "Oh, it's just my new make-up"
"You're so disciplined at the gym!" ---> "I have to be because I'd gain weight so quickly!" or "You have no idea! I missed two workouts last week!"
"You so deserve the promotion you received!" ---> "Yeah, it took me way to long to get it"
I was playing catch with my nephew once, years ago, he was about seven at the time. He made a great catch and I said "Wow, that was awesome...such a good catch!" to which he replied, "Yea, I know!".
He had zero hesitation accepting the praise of a job well done and frankly, in doing so was able to do what kids do well, fully live in the moment. Feel all the feelings of pride, happiness and joy. Feeling all the feelings, truly letting the positive energy sink in, it changes us and makes us want to recreate the feeling time and time again. When we deflect the positive energy and speak negatively about ourselves, we rob ourselves of moments of pride, happiness and joy.
My nephew could have said; "It was just because it was a good throw" or "Yeah, but I missed all my catches yesterday!" but instead he spent zero energy on negativity.
As I reflected on the exchange with those women at the beach later, I was glad I thought twice and chose to offer a simple wink and a "Awe, Thank you!", as I let my Supermom moment sink in. Frankly, it was a damn great way to handle the tantrum and I deserved to feel happy about it.
And, I'm sure as hell going to seek more moments like this because it felt so damn good, for everyone involved.
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