Today I had to run a quick errand on the way to the pool. I was in a slightly cranky mood...some combination of tiredness and lack of patience and desire to just get to the pool already.
We went into the phone company, waited for a few minutes, got the item we needed, and left. During our wait, Annie and Finn sat on some plush chairs and watched a television show about animals....behaving so sweetly.
Less than five minutes down the road, Annie asked "WHERE IS MY BARBIE?"
As it turns out, she'd taken the Barbie into the phone company office and had left it there. I turned around to go back and I will admit that I was not gracious. I felt so inconvenienced! I launched into a stern lecture that involved phrases like "this is why I don't like for you to take toys into places" and "when we own things we have to be responsible for them" and even "now we'll get to the pool later because the traffic is worse because school is letting out." Right around the time I was griping about the pool and school letting out, I caught myself. In fact, I literally clamped my hand over my own mouth and then said "I'm not saying any more."
Because I realized that I was being mean. To a 5 year old. Who simply forgot her doll. Because she's a human. And did I mention she's five?
I immediately remembered all the times *I* had left items somewhere, as an adult. Once I left my cell phone at Finn's art lesson. At this very moment I am not entirely sure where our checkbook is. These things happen because we are human. My husband hasn't dressed me down for misplacing the checkbook (and I'm fairly sure it is my fault and not his!). The art teacher didn't give me a stern talking-to on keeping up with my stuff and not leaving things at his place. Why not? Because we are adults! Because we understand that these things happen! And because we know that preserving a relationship is more important than expressing our judgment or disappointment.
Why is it so easy to forbear with an adult and yet so tempting to scold a child? If my husband had been the one to leave something at the phone company office, we would have just turned around to get it. I wouldn't have griped and moaned and complained. So why did I feel that I could do that with my child? I do not wish to raise a child who feels shame when she misplaces something or forgets something, and yet my behavior today, if repeated throughout her childhood, could easily lead to that.