Our dog, Brady, excitedly greets us at the door every time we come home – whether we were gone for 10 minutes or 10 hours. All 14 pounds of him quivers with anticipation as he can barely contain his happiness. He then runs around the house, usually with one of our shoes in his mouth (why can’t we ever remember to put them away?) enticing us to chase him and play with him. People always talk about how unconditionally our pets love us and what a wonderful feeling that is.
The truth is that my daughter, all 65 pounds of her, still jumps up and down and hugs me when she sees me. Not unlike my loving dog, she often just wants to spend time with me, snuggling on the couch or playing a game. I have an example from earlier this week. My daughter came home from school in a bad mood. She was hungry and tired, and annoyed that she had to practice piano and do homework. After some down time, she sat down to practice piano, which lasted all of about 45 seconds. She then asked if she could go outside to play basketball. I sometimes give in to her requests, mostly to avoid her meltdowns. But not this time. I simply reminded her to practice piano and walked away. What do you think ensued? Banging on the keys, grunts and groans of frustration, perhaps a kick or two to the piano…but I held my ground. After practicing, while fussing and crying, for an appropriate amount of time, she grabbed her basketball and headed outside.
As I watched her from the living room, bouncing and tossing the ball, I started to feel guilty. Typical parental guilt. Was I too hard on her? Was she angry with me? What’s the harm of basketball before piano? (The harm, which I have learned the hard way, is that by postponing the chores and homework until too late results in it not getting done.) I walked outside to check in with her. She took one look at me, burst into tears, and wrapped her arms around me for a long hug.
This experience reminded me, once again, that it’s okay for your children to be angry with you. It’s okay for them to not like you very much, and for you to not like them very much. At the end of the day, they love you, just as you love them. Our job, as parents, is to grow them into wonderful, responsible, and kind adults. Give them boundaries, set limits, and teach them. Really, THEY LOVE YOU, even when they tell you they don’t.