Posted in Lessons Learned, Lifestyle

Parenting My Girl is like playing whack-a-mole.

Last Updated on November 17, 2020 by World’s Okayest Mom

Whack-a-mole. Fun game or cleverly-disguised, mental torture device? You decide.

I’ve decided that trying to teach My Girl valuable life lessons is like that carnival game, whack-a-mole. Once I think we’ve solved a parenting issue, another pops up its annoying, yet somehow cute little head.

To be clear though, I don’t whack My Girl on the head with a mallet. Though maybe that’s not a bad idea…

My Girl is no stranger of good deeds gone bad. She is a great example of “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” But she must get that tendency from somewhere. Or someone. … Me. I’m someone.

Teaching Life Lessons

Looking back on the wonderful life lessons I’ve tried to impart to My Girl so she grows up to be a kind and hard-working adult, I’ve realized that my road to hell is paved with not only good intentions but misguided parenting techniques.

Sharing

We all try to instill the necessary value of sharing. With an only child, it can be especially difficult. Besides sharing her momma with other kids, mainly Jane, My Girl is not bad at sharing. From a young age, she would gift us with slobbery and crunched-up goldfish crackers. As she has gotten older and developed a stronger sweet tooth, she still shares, but maybe a little begrudgingly.

I can’t blame her. I remember my mom buying me a cookie or candy bar and saying, “I just want one bite.”

She didn’t specify how big that one bite would be, and I soon found myself staring with horror at half a candy bar. It got to the point where I would keep my fingers gripped firmly around three-fourths of the candy bar as she went to take a bite. It’s lucky that I never lost any of those fingers.

My Girl is known to do the same thing. Or to say, “You can have one bite, but not a Grandma bite.” I may have shared my candy bar story on more than one occasion – usually with a preface like: “You’re lucky I’m not like Grandma…”

But sharing. She’s unusually good at it for a child who has never really had to share her toys. And unlike one of my favorite Friends episode where “Joey doesn’t share food!”, My Girl is very willing to hand over part of her snack.

Like she did during day camp this summer.

What a sweet girl…

Sharing her snack…

Of peanut butter filled pretzels…

With the girl to the right of her…

Who is allergic to peanuts.

Yep. There was the sharing, then the allergic reaction, then the epi-pen, then the daycare teacher’s conversation with me saying maybe I shouldn’t teach my child to share her snack with kids she doesn’t really know.

Good point. But I’m not doing that. Maybe we should teach children with severe peanut allergies to not take snacks with peanuts in them. (But in everyone’s defense, the peanut butter was cleverly hidden within the pretzels.)

So, after praising her for the sharing, I taught her a new lesson: Not everyone can eat peanut butter and she needs to ask a few more questions before handing out snacks. She’s now weirdly obsessed with discovering if people are allergic to peanuts or other foods.

Generosity

Next value that has gone haywire – generosity. My Girl is innately generous, so I can’t say I’ve taught her this. I certainly encourage it.

So one weekend, she spent hours drawing and creating “fun-a-flips,” as she called them. A fun-a-flip is a picture folded a third of the way over. When it’s folded shut, it’s one picture; when it’s opened up, it’s something different.

Typically, it was an animal sitting down, but when unfolded, it was now standing up. Or an animal sleeping, then awake. Or an animal… You get it. It was an animal doing something.

Anyways. She wanted to take these fun-a-flips to church to hand out to the kids in Sunday School. Great. Unfortunately, My Girl’s art is not appreciated by her generation. She’s like Picasso in that way, I’m sure.

So I encouraged her to hand out the pictures to the older generation at church who may be more impressed – like her Sunday School teacher, her old babysitter who adores her, Grandma, etc. The first picture she hands out is to an elderly woman who I don’t exactly know. Seen her around, but don’t know her name.

As My Girl is passing out her pictures to everyone else, this nice lady comes over to show me her fun-a-flip. I look at it. It’s a cute gray kitten, standing in the grass. It has big, innocent-looking eyes (if you ask, My Girl will give you a tutorial on how to make innocent-looking eyes), a sweet, pink nose, and whiskers extending out to make a smile.

Then she flips it open for me. How fun! It’s now an evil, devil kitty – complete with blood red eyes, razor sharp teeth – dripping blood, of course, and a scary grin on its face as it chases down its poor prey.

All I can think of is: out of all those pictures she made, ones with hedgehogs and dinosaurs and fluffy bunnies, she gives Satan Cat to this sweet, old lady. And I also think: yep, that sounds about right.

So new lesson was needed after I praised My Girl for her generosity: Don’t give elderly ladies at church Demon Kitties. (A rule to live by, don’t you think?)

But the kind lady from church must not have been too traumatized or offended. A couple weeks later, the lady sought out My Girl after church to share a picture with her: My Girl’s Satan Cat, wide open with magnets, on the front of the lady’s refrigerator.

Kindness

But the biggest mole that stuck out its annoying head came after a lesson in kindness.

Following a series of issues in the classroom, My Girl was in need of a reminder of kindness. Instead of disciplining (The Husband and I still have yet to strike on an effective method) or lecturing, which gives no satisfaction except I get to hear my well-worded self speak to a brown-eyed blank stare, I came up with a Greatest Mom in the World idea. We’ll have a family movie night watching Wonder.

If you haven’t seen Wonder, do. Right away (check it out here). Without spoilers, it’s about a boy, Auggie, with a rare facial deformity entering mainstream school for the first time.

Of course, it’s heart-wrenching (The Husband and I had seen it months earlier and still teared up through the entire movie), and a school full of middle schoolers are not nice.

That’s an understatement.

At times, kids just downright suck – during this movie and in real life. But Auggie remains positive and kind throughout all trials, and eventually, he makes some true and loyal friends. It’s the perfect anti-lecture on kindness.

So, family movie night.

Cut to the scene where Auggie makes his first friend: a classmate is struggling with the science pop quiz, so Auggie lets him look off his all-correct answers.

Pause the movie.

The Husband and I both remind My Girl: Auggie is being kind and helpful, but cheating is wrong. Repeat after me: Cheating is wrong.

Resume movie.

The next morning, My Girl prattles on and on about the movie. She can’t wait to finish it, since we had to cut it short for bedtime. When at school, she tells me, she’s going to inform all her friends about it. And when making decisions, she said she wants to be like Auggie.

Smugly, I envision whacking the unkindness mole with that big mallet. Then I use it to pat myself on the back. Nice job, Mom.

Then at lunchtime comes the text messages from wonderful Mrs. Irwin (My Girl’s 2nd grade teacher – See Cast of Characters).

Without reading from front to end, I see a picture of a short essay My Girl wrote on cheating. Hmmmm. My Girl must have been excited about that scene in Wonder where Auggie lets Jack Will cheat and she voluntarily wrote an essay about it for Mrs. Irwin.

(I realize how naïve that sounds, but My Girl likes writing essays. It wasn’t that far fetched. Really.)

Then I read a little further back in the message stream. It wasn’t voluntary.

Wonder Movie Image
Choose Kind. Yes, but kindness in legal and socially acceptable ways, please.

As you can imagine, My Girl put her newfound knowledge of kindness to use straight away. Without any of the subtlety that Auggie portrayed, My Girl let The First Boyfriend cheat off her answers during their reading test. When I asked her about it, she simply said:

“I was being kind and helpful. The First Boyfriend doesn’t know reading and I do.”

One more, nasty little mole just poked his head up and stuck his tongue out at me.

Again, praise for her kindness (honestly, I didn’t even discipline her for the cheating), and a strongly-worded new lesson: No Cheating!

We finally finished the movie that night. My Girl loved it and learned a lot about kindness. But I didn’t quite enjoy my #MomWin as much as I should have. I just kept playing over another pivotal scene from the movie: Jack Will gets into a full-out brawl in the school hallway when a bully calls Auggie a freak.

I’m going to need a bigger mallet.

Share your own imperfections.