Little People Drama. Big People Feelings.

I had a heartbreaking interaction with my six-year-old at bedtime.

It was 30 minutes past her regular bedtime on a Saturday night.

It began with the, "I’m getting tired", and then onto the slap happy and wound up scenario, followed by the giggles, then being distracted from the bedtime routine by any little thing, more jumping around, and finally she landed the plane by wrestling with the dog.  

From afar one might think “What a cute, playful time.”  

I call it the danger zone.  

On the other side of the wound up before bedtime is the meltdown before bedtime if you don’t move fast enough.  

Oh, just my kid? You’ve been there too, right?

So as we progress to potty, jammies, toothbrushing, while drinking “coffee” (actually water) from her newfound favorite cup (actually my travel mug that looks like a Starbucks coffee cup), Ava decides to jump onto an ottoman, and then off of the ottoman–water in hand–spilling some on the ground.

Me (stern voice): “Ava, that was not a wise choice.  You know better than that.  Give me that water.  In bed, head on your pillow. Right now.”

Cue: The Meltdown.

Fast forward through the stomping, screaming, crying, the “You’re ruuuude Mom!”, the calming, the laying in bed with the head on the pillow, the “I’m sorry Mommy.  May I please have another drink of water?”, the getting the favorite mug back, the putting the mug exactly where it needed to be next to her bed since that was the key to happiness at that point in the evening, the “Can I lay in your armpit Mom?,” the cuddling, to the heartbreaking part...

Ava whimpered, “Mommy, I’m sorry for crying.”

“You don’t have to be sorry for crying Ava.  It’s okay to cry, especially when you are really sad or hurt. I just want you to calm your body when you’re upset and talk with a kind voice.”

She added, “And I’m sorry for saying you’re rude in a mean voice.”

“Thank you for saying you're sorry.  I forgive you.  I know you’ll try better next time. Now let’s close our eyes.”

Crying even more heavily, Ava poured her big heart out, “ I just don’t feel good.  I feel so bad.  I always do bad things.  I feel like such a bad person. I do more and more bad things all the time and that makes me a bad person. I just think I want to be a different person.”

“Sweetie. You are not a bad person!”

“But my mind tells me that I’m bad.  I just don’t like myself. I’m always doing bad things!” She declared.

“You are not bad.  You are a wonderful person.  We all make mistakes, Mommy, Daddy, Malia, everyone, but we are good people. We have to keep trying our best. And we always have to love ourselves and be proud of ourselves for the way we are.”

She’s not convinced. And this goes back and forth a couple more times.

“Ava, listen. Repeat after me.” I said.

My name is Ava Henderson.
My name is Ava Henderson.

I am a wonderful person.
I am a wonderful person.

I make mistakes sometimes and that’s okay.    
I make mistakes sometimes and that’s okay.

I keep trying my best.     
I keep trying my best.

God made me just the way I’m supposed to be.  
God made me the way I’m supposed to be.

And I love myself very much.  
And I love myself very much.

Malia, the three-year-old (laying on the other side of me, quiet during all this, now chimes in with a classic whine): “Moooommy, I feel like I’m a bad person toooooo.”

Ava, exasperated at this point turns and says to Malia, “You’re just saying that because you wanna copy me!”

“Malia repeat after me.” And I began the same words with Malia as I just had with Ava.

“How are you feeling now girls?”

“I feel good now.” Ava smiled.

“I feel good too Mommy.” Malia added.

“Okay. I love you. Eyes closed. No more talking. Good night ladies.”

Whoa!  Since when is bedtime so psychologically deep?

Now before you go thinking that our child is on a path to clinical depression, poor self-esteem, drug addiction and early teenage pregnancy (I’m ahead of you on that one let me tell ya.)

Or that we must be using shame tactics, good girl/bad girl talk, and pressuring her for high performance. (I already did that quick scan too and we passed. I think.)

Or before you think that our three-year-old is a whiner and bound to be a follower...   

I do realize that this conversation was deep, heavy, way thick, laden in fact with the overtired, developmentally normal little girl dramatic, emotional dysregulation of bedtime so I am not all too devastated for their futures.

As I reflected though, the thoughts came...

Where do kids get this stuff?

Perfectionism and self-judgment so so early? Need for attention?  Need to be like people they look up to?

No wonder we grow up to be people pleasers.

Discipline is tough. Discipline is necessary.

Really?! The copying game argument in the middle? Nice.  

Feeling guilty makes you feel like a bad person.

But our actions are actions. Our being is our being.  Doing bad isn’t being bad. Doing good even isn’t being good.

No filter with the little people. They have big people feelings.

Good comeback though Mamma Bear. I’ll have to save that for later.  Maybe even frame it.  For myself. For everyone.

Sometimes I’m not so sure that our big people problems are so different than the little people problems.

So, for those that want to join me in the reminder of what it means to be be human and feel disappointed, unsure and need a boost:

My name is ______________________.

I am a wonderful person.
I make mistakes sometimes and that’s okay.    
I keep trying my best.
God made me just the way I’m supposed to be.
And I love myself very much.

With My Best,
Dr. Paige