Mixed emotions

I just found this note crumpled in a ball and placed carefully on my bed:

Charlotte's note

… which was surprising because Charlotte was successful in keeping her agreements tonight – namely taking a bath and brushing her hair. She did have some trouble with the shower curtain, she was kind of getting caught in it and at one point she started to cry. I went in and pushed the curtain to the side and as I left she started begging me to help her dry off and get warm. I said, “I’ll close the door. Sometimes that helps it feel warmer in the bathroom.” And I walked away. So maybe that’s what the note was about. But at bedtime I said, “Charlotte you kept all your agreements, you don’t have to go back to zero for anything.” And she smiled and seemed encouraged. I just don’t know if she left me that note before or after bedtime. Maybe she’ll be willing to tell me about it tomorrow.

Speaking of agreements, the only problem with rooting for them to succeed is that the old urge to remind and direct is back with a vengeance. I see them forgetting to do what we agreed to and I don’t want to be the bad guy and send them back to zero. I truly want them to see their friends, so I think, maybe if I give just a little hint … not a full blown reminder … maybe that would be ok. I don’t know. I have to figure this one out — how to encourage and be fair and helpful without saving them or interfering with their independence. With Charlotte, I tried giving choices: “Do you want bubbles, or no bubbles?” “Would you prefer a comb or a brush?” That helped her think of what she was supposed to do, but I don’t know if that’s a constructive approach or not.

On the upside, all three girls continue to assume, for the most part, that I will only help them with things if absolutely necessary. Today when Charlotte discovered her favorite bowl was still dirty in the dishwasher, she quietly took it out and washed it herself. That’s definitely a first.

Then, I saw Fenner setting up the rat & gerbil pen out in the yard, and I automatically thought, darn, every time they get that thing out, they don’t put it away again and I end up doing it, grumble, grumble. But a minute later, Ellen called out, “Mom! We made an agreement. Fenner puts the fence up, and I take it down again!” Hey, works for me!

Later, Fenner decided to try making a milkshake on her own. At one point I heard her say, “I’m not sure. Let’s try it and see what we end up with.” Wow. I’ve never heard her say that before. She’s always tended to ask, ‘Is this right? Is this right?’ before trying anything new. For Fenner, that was a big step in the right direction.

Explore posts in the same categories: Week 9: Family Meetings

7 Comments on “Mixed emotions”

  1. Vicki Says:


    I will get right too it.

    The goals isn’t always that they succeed. That is a small goal. You have a goal with a capital G. You want them to develop the mental muscle to not CARE if they succeed or fail. You want them to care about the fact that they have a CHOICE and that means Personal Power. You want them to not worry about succeeding or failing – instead, you want kids with the mental muscle to try, fail and keep right on moving until they figure out what it will take to succeed.

    Once a person has figured something out, they tend to move on to the next struggle. Imagine your girls, chewing up and spitting out struggles, challenges, disappointments, hurt feelings, embarrassments.

    Imagine girls who will take risks for things they believe in and are important to them and success – well – that isn’t in the equation any longer because the truth is, people who are willing to do things without guarantee of success, are the true winners in this game of life.

    So hold steady. Remember goal with a big G. Look at those girls with complete faith and confidence, remind yourself that NONE of you will remember the details of this transitional time, but you will remember how it changed your lives forever.

    And for the record, I still give choices to nudge the kids forward when I sense they have taken themselves as far as they can and truly need assistance in taking the next step.

    Smooches to all of you on this beautiful, sunny day.

    • flockmother Says:

      Oh, how frighteningly easy it is to slip back into results-focused parenting! This is a much-appreciated reminder that the bigger goal is to have them at choice and build up that resilience before they enter the big, bad world.

  2. Vicki Says:


    I am back again with a thought. I was peeling an egg, looking out the window and thinking about Charlotte and the bath.

    I remember you writing about how you use to dry her off.

    This is a very intimate, loving experience for any child. Imagine the sense of connection she was getting at that moment. The safety she felt in your arms, safe from hitting sisters. The feeling that everything was okay.

    In some ways, that little girl who needed all those things is being replaced by a strong, take charge, I can do it kind of girl.

    But I am guessing that at those moments, when there is a melt down and a demand to “help”, that really – it is a cry for another kind of connection.

    It is as if she is saying “If not this – than what mom?”

    So here is my thought – use encouragement to make an observation: Charlotte, I know you can bathe yourself, and I also know this is one way you and I use to connect. As soon as you are out of the bath, come and get me and we can…..

    Then, the two of you can create new kinds of connections that support the emerging Charlotte.

    Okay. Hope all this makes sense.

    • flockmother Says:

      “If not this – than what mom?” — SO true! Check out what she said to me in my next post….

  3. Susan Says:

    I’m reading all your posts and this one really hit home. Last night was a hard night for bathtime–I tried to stay out of it, but maybe it felt like abandonment for my 5 year old. She did a great job washing her own hair, but when it was time to get out, I didn’t help her out like I usually do. After 20 minutes of crying, I finally held her hands to help her out. Did I fail at “do nothing, say nothing”? Is hugging her while she cries ok, or is that not letting her be responsible for her own bath? I just don’t know. Not sure how I’ll handle it tonight.

    • flockmother Says:

      Did you read the comments on this post from Vicki? Her suggestions might help. When it comes to “do nothing, say nothing,” anything you do that fosters both connection and independence/courage gets a green light. With those two things in mind, you won’t be perfect, but you can’t really go wrong. Does that make sense?

      • Susan Says:

        Thanks for responding so quickly! Yes, her comments do make sense. I’ll try to keep that big picture in mind next time.

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