Tuesday, June 4, 2013

My Daughter Gave Me the Middle Finger

"Mommy, what does this mean?" I looked in the back seat and my rising second grader was giving me the middle finger. I calmly replied, "It's like a curse word that means forget you, or I don't care about you. It's not nice and don't do it again."

I thought for a second and added, "I'm so glad you asked me what it meant. Did someone do that to you?"

"A girl at camp told me it meant God is bad," she explained.

"Well, I've never heard that before. But like I said, it's not nice, so don't do it again."

"Okay," she said. I watched her pondering my response. A minute later she announced, "I don't believe her, Mommy. I believe you."

And then she segued right into sharing how yet another red robin had landed on a tree outside her bedroom window.

Yesterday, she snuck some candy (stuffed in a wallet placed under her tunic and in her leggings!) to camp. When I caught her (walking funny), I initially defaulted to the standard punishment - no doing whatever it was she wanted to do that evening (bike riding, iPad playing, TV watching), and writing a few sentences about what she did wrong, why it was wrong, and the better choice she'd make next time.

As she was writing, another approach crossed my mind - one that was informed by my own misbehavior 35 years ago. I regaled her with my criminal past: the story of how I was caught by my mother at about the same age stealing one Now & Later candy out of the pack from a grocery store. I hid it in my sandal. Of course, it fell out while we were walking and I suffered dire consequences.

The take-away for my teary-eyed child was the importance of trust and integrity, and how deception is the cousin of lying. I could tell I made a good decision about my reaction to her infraction because of her genuine interest in my story and her verbal response: "I will never, ever, ever, ever do it again."

She's clever and crafty, like her mama. So I don't necessarily believe that she'll never dabble in the untruths or misrepresentations again. But it won't be in the same way. She's learning about values. And that's a win in my parenting book.

Lessons for the last two days: Every question from your child can be a learning opportunity for you both.  And, utilize the best approach to get the lesson learned.

Keep on Enjoyceinglife. It's rewarding.

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