Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What Did You Do?!

I hear myself saying this a lot.

Lately, I catch myself thinking it.... I hear Elliot erupt into tears in the other room. I instinctively think something awful happened, and the very next thought is "What did you do." Meaning Maya, of course. When I run to the rescue, I usually discover that Elliot has stumbled on a toy or has made a grab for a hot lamp, screaming when Maya, protectively, got in the way.

Thankfully, I'm learning to bite my tongue on those accusatory words. "What did you do?" They are just not fair. Plus, they set the girls up on a spiral of blame, victimization, and bullying. (perhaps I'm over thinking it!).

Maya weathered the transition to "big sister" with remarkable grace. We didn't suffer the usual "send her back" protests that other parents report. Physical violence is pretty minimal (even after Maya's Popeye-watching phase!).

Maya actually does her best to protect Elliot's interests, even when stealing a toy from her little sister. Maya always makes it a trade, pulling away the interactive toy cell phone and replacing it with an eggplant from the kitchen set. (It must have seemed fair at the time, right?)

According to other parents, parenting books, and my own distant memories of childhood, kids are remarkably good at capitalizing on a parental mistake, like saying "What did you do" automatically.

Reacting this way sets the stage for future Elliot to play the victim time and again, blaming Maya for infractions that were minor at best and fictitious at worst. It also leaves Maya feeling like a bully, even when she doesn't act like one. How many times can a kid take the blame before thinking, "What the heck, my twerpy sister could use a good shove, and since I'll be blamed for it anyway..."

So I'm learning to calmly ask, "What happened," from my composed almost-four-year-old while wiping tears from my baby's face. Generally, Maya steps in to help comfort Elliot after a little tumble.

Occasionally, I'm on to the next challenge when Maya's matter-of-fact answer is, "I pushed her so she wouldn't step on my Candy Land game, and she hit her head on the toybox."

It doesn't sound like a major issue, but the mother lioness in me gets very confused over how to react. It's probably best just to keep quiet and ask questions. Maya is a kind, sweet big sister. She is still learning how to play with a little sister who can now wrestle for what she wants and, with a single wail, bring mom and dad running. Elliot, on the other hand, has simultaneously learned to throw theatrical tantrums (It's so hard not to laugh when she moans at the top of her lungs, jogs in a circle, then hurls herself to the floor.... over "No, no playing in the fireplace").

So I just keep practicing... "What happened?" Deep breath. Assess.

Clearly, all this hasn't been a problem today.
Here is Maya practicing gymnastics
(a game she started playing during the Olympics last summer).

1 comment:

HausFrau said...

Oh, so true! It brings back memories from being a big sister myself! I hope I remember this post when we have another little one, someday.
Hehe, it looks like you have the next Shawn Johnson on your hands. ;)


Search This Blog