Over the weekend, the three of us went to Ikea. We were in the elevator with an older woman when Malayna asked if this was the Ikea with the balls. (The Philadelphia Ikea has a little area in the bedroom section where kids can play in a ball pit. This one only had a play area where parents can leave their kids and shop alone.) I told her that this store had an area where she could play, but we couldn't go in with her. When I asked her if she wanted to play there, she raised her eyebrows as high as they could go, gasped loudly and said, "NO!! I don't want to go there without YOU!"
The woman in the elevator with us laughed and said, "My son wouldn't go in by himself, either. By the time he was ready, he was too tall." (Ikea has a height limit in their play area.) "Maybe she'll go in there eventually." I told her I doubted it, and she said something about kids having their own personalities and temperaments. I told Jimmy I wanted that woman's phone number so we could be friends. I could call her when something Malayna does annoys me and she could remind me that it's NOT MY FAULT. That she was born with a temperament that I can't change. I need someone to remind me of that daily.
Do you realize how much pressure we put on ourselves and each other about parenting? When you see a child having a tantrum in public do you blame the parent? Do you secretly judge a parent whose child is whiny and clingy? I know I did - before I had Malayna. I had NO IDEA how little control I'd have. I'm not saying I'm a slacker parent. I don't let her do whatever she wants. I try to remember that she has her own ideas and opinions about things. Just because she's a child doesn't mean she's less of a person. I don't like when kids are bossed around "because I'm the parent and I said so." What is that actually teaching them? How is that helping them grow into respectful, responsible adults?
My job as Malayna's parent is not to force her to be something I want her to be. She's not clay - given to me to mold. She is who she is and as her parent I will help her get along in the world.