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Love, Don't Shove

A couple months ago Cora experienced some “dire crisis” that sent her into a meltdown one fine afternoon. She’d asked for a couple holiday cookies and I’d said yes without checking our stash; a quick look into the cookie jar revealed only one cookie left. One.

“But Maddie had two of these cookies yesterday! I want two cookies!” Cora wailed, and burst into tears.

I stared at my daughter, a puddled mass of sobs on the floor, not trying to manipulate me into magically finding a second cookie – just unable to move past the fact that there was only one cookie to be had.

Now, in the past, I would have handled the situation like this:

Tired from all my holiday busyness from the rest of the day, and still needing to do one million and seven things before the day ended, I’d look at Cora sobbing and lose my patience. With lightening-fast calculations I’d come up with the quickest way to get this thing over with. And then I’d put my plan into action: “Ok, if one cookie isn’t good enough, then you can just have zero cookies,” I’d nonchalantly say, then take the cookie jar, step over the shuddering child, and put the jar away.

Cora would quickly reverse her position, grovel, and get her cookie back, seemingly satisfied. Or if not satisfied, at least surface-level grateful. I’d have gotten through it, subscribing to the Pop-the Zit style of parenting where I did what was needed to get a quick explosion and move on.

Except that this would teach Cora that her feelings aren’t valued and should be ignored. That she’s “wrong” to be disappointed and will quickly incur Mommy’s wrath if she expresses her feelings. As I looked at Cora, I heard a voice say to me, “You need to love your child through this. Don’t shove her through it on your own schedule.”

Love, don’t shove.

So I picked up my girlie and held her, and said, “I know, honey. I know it’s disappointing that there’s not another cookie to eat today.”


There was no “BUT” that followed, as in, “BUT this is the way it is and you need to accept it, and quickly, because I need to get back to making dinner, ok?”

And Cora sobbed a bit more, nodded her head and said, “Yeah, it’s hard,” sighed, and got up and got the one cookie.

Since then I’ve been trying to remind myself of my love-don’t-shove when the situation warrants, and while it’s often hard, the results are worth it. My girls are becoming more confident that I’m really listening to them while at the same time are better able to process their emotions and pull themselves back out.

Now, I know it’s not always about loving a kid through something. Sometimes they’re throwing a hissy fit and need to be disciplined, taken out of the situation they’re trying to dominate. Sometimes kids can get stuck in an emotion and need your help finding their way out of it. These are not the situations I mean for this tool.

But sometimes, a kid just needs to be allowed to work through something in a safe space, in their own way, in their own time. And knowing you’re there and aware and listening goes a long way.

I’m thinking of this right now because Cora had another such moment last night: she’d had a mild run-in with a friend at recess that day, and when she hit a minor bump in her bedtime routine she lost it, sobbing deeply and saying she “needs a moment to myself”.

I could have threatened her, bullied her into finishing her bedtime routine in a timely manner. But I looked past the painful delay in bedtime (read: parental freedom) and really saw her: a five-year-old who’s exhausted from over eighty days of seven-hour work days. Constantly learning new stuff, navigating emotional minefields as she learns how to be a friend, being bombarded by new ideas and mean kids and . . . and . . . and. Cora just needed a meltdown.

So I crawled into bed with her and loved her through it, and she sobbed a bit, sighed and snuggled into me, and then asked to finish her bedtime routine. And as we started to read books together, she took my face in hers, smiled, and said, “I love you, Mommy.”

Love, don’t shove.


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