Trying to teach a 3 yr old a lesson in responsibility…

Clearly things were doomed from the start.  Lola was playing with a rock collection when she accidentally broke one.  It was an accident.  Probably avoidable, but nonetheless, an accident.  I really wanted her to own up to it, so I asked her to tell her dad that she had broken one of his rocks on accident.

With her head down, we headed toward dad.  I kept telling her it was an accident and that it was ok.  All she had to do was say what she had done, but you could tell she was feeling some shame.  It was just an accident, but she was long past guilt.  I could tell I had pushed it too far.  We let it go.  It was awful.  Awful because I hate to see her sad.  Awful because I realized I had pushed it too far.  Awful because my lesson totally backfired.

Of course, once you’ve made a mistake as a parent, it follows you.  A couple of days later, Lola accidentally elbowed me in the face.  Again, an accident.  However, this time she immediately ran to a corner.  Great.  How do I fix this?

I’ve heard the best way to work through a mistake is to admit the wrong and process the feelings.  So, one day after school, I admitted to Lola that I had made a mistake and we processed her feelings.  It was great.  Not really.  These things never are.  It’s messy and complicated and forces me to deal with my delusions of perfection.  But it’s important to me that Lola feel that she can admit her mistakes and that no matter what we will always love her.  So I let go of my need to be perfect and I admitted I had pushed it too far.  Unbeknownst to me, that was only the beginning.

Once the hard part was over (or so I thought), Lola asked me what I used to do as a kid.  Not totally unlike her to change the subject.  So, I started to tell her about my childhood, how my brother and I used to explore in the “woods” behind our house.  But this was not what Lola was looking for.

Lola:  No mommy, what mistakes did you make when you were a little girl?

Seriously?  Did I not just admit my imperfection as a parent?  Was that not enough?

Lola:  Mommy, what kind of mistakes did you make when you were a kid?

She’s not going to let this go.

Me:  Well, one time I was playing on the towel bar in the bathroom and I broke it on accident.  I didn’t want to tell my mom, so I put the towel bar back in place and waited for the next person to “break” it.

Lola:  Mommy, next time we see your mommy, you can tell her what you did.

Seriously?  This parenting thing is not easy.

Lola:  What else mom?  What else did you do wrong when you were a little girl?

Ok, now it’s my turn to change the subject.

I guess I have to tell my mom who really broke the towel bar next time I see her.  I’m pretty sure Lola isn’t going to let me forget about it.  Or worse, she’ll rat me out.

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