Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge: Just when I thought…
Life seldom unfolds in straight lines. It’s not necessary to repeat the prompt phrase, but this week let’s think about the times when life has turned an abrupt corner, or caught us off guard.
This topic jettisons me back almost 30 years to one of those moments. Which caught me off guard…and remains clear in my memory even now.
You hear so much advice as a new parent. Or a young parent. It comes at you from every direction. Other parents. Friends. Family members. Books. Magazine articles. I’m talking pre-internet…when I was raising children.
In the midst of all this advice, there were times I neglected the inner barometer. My parenting radar and instincts still not fully developed.
My 3 year old son’s 8 month experience at a local daycare center was one of those times. When I should have picked up on the signs. That it wasn’t the best place for him; even at only 2 days a week.
Irritability. Anger. Clingyness. But not all the time. I increasingly felt something was off, but rationalized my uneasiness…as over-reacting to normal toddler adjustments.
Until an exchange one evening while changing his diaper. When paying attention became front and center. And a turning point for me…
I am a bad boy.
The words jarring and new…from a child who talked little. Dark green eyes glanced up at me, and then away.
I froze; his two ankles balanced between the fingers of my left hand as I tried to still their movement. He was anxious to be off the changing table. Arms and legs swinging up. Down. Sideways. Body twisting. Trying to roll over. Two damp middle fingers plunged deep in his mouth. No more words came as the sucking became rhythmic.
With my free hand, I smoothed blonde hair back from his forehead.
His eyes met mine. Sweetie…You are a Good Boy. A wonderful boy. And I love you!
I pulled the diaper up between his legs and gently held it on his belly. I let go of his legs. They scissored the air like bike pedals. Wrinkled fingers slid out of his mouth.
Bad Boy he repeated.
I leaned closer…You are the best boy in the whole world.
He strained to be upright. I pinned the diaper, pulled up the pants and stood him on the table. We were almost eye-to-eye.
I felt my outrage growing, the tears close behind….
You Are A Good Boy.
I kissed his cheek. Wrapped my arms around him. Lifted him up. He hooked his little boy legs around my waist and rested his head on my shoulder. His body finally still.
I knew there was only one place he could have heard those words…and gotten that message.
I withdrew him from the daycare center.
I quit my consulting job.
And learned a hard lesson…
Follow your instincts.
Children let you know what they need.