the reality of a child
One night when I was about five years old, I was having a hard time falling asleep. I was doing the usual kid thing -- getting up multiple times to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, too hot, too cold, can I have just one more hug? Finally, my mother had had it up to here with me, and told me not to get up one. more. time. or I would be in big trouble. It must have been late, because my parents were already in bed. (Now, as a parent, I can only imagine how frustrated they were with me).
I lay in bed, twisting and turning, listening to the blood in my eardrums against my pillow, trying to fall asleep. I decided it was too bright in my room, and I got up to turn my night light off, and crawled back in bed. That didn't last for long. Too dark. Much too dark. Quite afraid, I carefully made my way to the night light to turn it back on again, and as I leaned down to reach it, I hit my forehead on the corner of my dresser.
It was one of those pains that starts off sharp and then slowly sinks into your skull. Tears sprang to my eyes. I managed to flip on my night light and tucked myself back in bed, crying. All I wanted was my mommy! If only she would come running into my room and scoop me up in her arms and kiss my head, it would make all the pain go away! I was so overcome with emotion, my forehead throbbing and being a little scared in the room that had been pitch black only moments ago (who knew what lurked under my bed?), unable to tell my mom what happened. I cried and cried, and eventually fell asleep. I'll never forget that night, because I felt true hopelessness. It was a feeling of, if there was anything I could do to change this situation, I would. The feeling of needing my mommy so bad, and not being able to get to her, just one room away.
I think it's important to remember how we felt as children when dealing with a very emotional child. I have to constantly remind myself that my toddler's emotional maturity is that of a two year old, and that just because he feels distraught over, say, not being able to take a toy to bed (a frequent battle over here), it is the same amount of emotion an adult feels when they feel distraught over something. It doesn't matter that his emotion is over something small, it is still his reality and I must be empathetic when dealing with those emotions. It's funny, looking back at how I felt when I hit my head that night and couldn't seek my mother's comforting kiss, and how it is adjacent to feelings of overwhelming emotion I may feel today over something much more serious.
In the same line of thought, it helps to think of this when reminding myself of the innocence of a child. Children don't do bad things because they are bad. Their actions are because of influences and emotional immaturity. Much like we may react to a bad driver on the road, or in an argument with a spouse, a child reacts to things that upset them, but on a different level. One thing I see my son do all the time is copy things that are said and done toward him. Obviously, this makes me watch more closely how I treat him. If I shake my finger and speak in frustration with him when I am upset with him, I don't think it's fair that I discipline him harshly for doing the same to me (because he has before, and I know he is only mimicking my actions). I must be a constant example to him of how we act in situations that upset us, and before disciplining him, remind myself that he is just an innocent child who is experiencing the --just as important-- reality of his emotions.