It is Very Tempting to Title This Post “Hugs, FTW!”

Every once in a while the sound of my husband getting ready for work early in the morning will wake our daughter up. Usually, she’ll ask him for a drink, or to quiet down and then she’ll crawl back into bed and fall back asleep.
This morning, she woke up at 4:30 am and never went back to sleep.
I knew that this meant REALLY bad news later that afternoon when she came home from school. A Tired My Daughter is a GRUMPY My Daughter.
After I finished picking up all 3 kids from 3 different schools (hate! driving! so! much!) I decided to make a quick trip to Trader Joe’s to get a few things for dinner (and also- pumpkin butter.) This wasn’t very smart parenting. I knew my daughter had been up since 4:30 in the morning. I should have went straight home and put her down for a nap. But, I also knew that if I didn’t go to buy groceries, we’d end up ordering a pizza or some other unhealthy food for dinner. So… to Trader Joe’s we went.
By the time we got home, my daughter was physically and mentally exhausted.
My husband was home from work, so I asked him to take care of her so I could get back to work.
“Please, put her down for a short nap.” I asked.
15 minutes later I hear crying from the kitchen.
“But, daddy! I want to make strawberry juice!”
“No, sweetie. You can’t smash the strawberries to make strawberry juice. Mommy bought strawberry lemonade. Why don’t you drink that?”
“BUT I WANT TO MAKE STRAWBERRY JUUUUUUUICE” she cried, as she ran down the hall towards my bedroom.
She walked up to me and started crying. “daddy won’t let me smash the strawberries to make strawberry juuuuice.”
I was annoyed.
Annoyed that my husband had not put her down for a nap. Annoyed that my daughter was whining over SMASHING STRAWBERRIES. Annoyed that no one seemed to care that I was working.
I took her by the hand (ANNOYED!) walked her over to my husband (ANNOYED!) and asked him to kindly PUT HER DOWN FOR A NAP BECAUSE SHE IS SO TIRED AND I HAVE TO WORK AND PLEASE DO IT NOW. (ANNOYED!)
Oh, The Drama!
She started crying and saying mean things like “I don’t like your face, Daddy!” Completely out of character, for her. She adores her daddy and never talks to him like that.
“You don’t talk to your father that way!” He snapped back at her.
“But I don’t like you with your glasses! They’re ugly!” She cried.
I knew that the things she was saying were completely out of line and unacceptable, he had every right to be upset.
I also knew how exhausted she was.
I got up to intervene.
I pulled my husband aside.
“Be gentle with her.” I said. “She’s very tired.”
He seemed confused. Did I not just hear the way she was talking to him? Did I not think it was inappropriate?
“I know what she was saying wasn’t okay. But I also know she woke up at 4:30 this morning and is a complete mess emotionally. She’s exhausted.”
He couldn’t wrap his mind around what I was saying. In his mind, her behavior was unacceptable and he had every right to scold her.
He picked her up, put her in her bed and walked out.
A few minutes later, I heard angrily flipping around in her bed.
I didn’t like what I heard. She WAS being bratty. What she was doing wasn’t okay. I could have been upset with her. I knew I needed to go into her room and deal with her. But I wasn’t quite sure how I would handle the situation.
I took a deep breath.
I walked into her bedroom.
I laid next to her on her bed. Instead of scolding her, I wrapped my arms tightly around her tired little body. She fought it at first. But then, she melted into my arms and broke down.
“I know, sweetie. You’re so tired. You don’t feel good. It’s okay, mama. Just close your eyes.”
She wept softly into my chest as I ran my fingers through her shiny, long hair.
Within 5 minutes, she was asleep.
I could have went into her room when I heard her flipping about angrily in her bed and shouted at her to “STOP THAT RIGHT NOW!” But I chose to go with a loving embrace instead. Because, as unhappy as I was with the way she was acting, I knew that was what she needed.
Today I learned that sometimes when our children push us away the hardest is when they need our gentle, loving arms to hold them close to us the most.

38 thoughts on “It is Very Tempting to Title This Post “Hugs, FTW!”

  1. Angel Smith

    Yay! I have a very emotional and prone to outbursts, including punching her 8yo sister in the face, 6yo daughter. I started asking her if she needed a hug when she was acting like a brat. 99% of the time she says yes, we snuggle, and the fit is over. And while we snuggle, I gently talk to her about how it’s okay to be upset, but not okay to hurt other people with words or fists. Great minds think alike!

  2. Beth

    Oh, I know this.
    My son has these problems sometimes and my husband can’t understand the be patient, wait, consider the circumstances before you blow approach. It works, but it is really, really hard to do some days.
    You did great, mama!

  3. Randi

    Awww- that is a really sweet post! I need to remember that for when my children are acting up and my patience is very thin. Life is too short – I need to have more patience with them. And do you really make strawberry juice??

  4. Overflowing Brain (Katie)

    Takes a special kind of patience to do that. My husband wakes me up at 4:30 some mornings and there are days, even as an adult, where I want to say mean things when I’m that tired.
    Good work. Go make that girl some strawberry juice.

  5. Jen

    You are very right! I’ve found that the same thing works with my six year old daughter. After she knows she’s loved and understood, she’s so much more likely to realize that her behaviorwas inappropriate and be sorry for it than if I were to just yell at her. Love always wins!

  6. Paige

    I truly admire you. As a mom of a 5 year old (I think ours are like one day apart), I KNOW how much patience and true love that took. Congrats on being a wonderful Mama.

  7. Dee

    Good job. I admire the way you handled that. I need to keep this post in mind in the future before I blow up.

  8. statia

    Funny how that sweet syrupy non reaction gets more than yelling. I try to remember that, but you know how it is when you’re in the heat of the moment.

  9. Tricia

    What a wonderfully poignant post. I loved everything you wrote about in here, and I wholeheartedly concur. You handled that situation so beautifully, and I’m beaming with admiration. Thank you for this :)

  10. Melissa @MBonn

    I didn’t expect this post to make me weep in the middle of the library. Oy! :P Way to go, you made the right choice and I think you get super parent points for it :)

  11. Lisa

    Thanks for posting this, Y. It’s actually something I really needed to hear. I have a soon to be 3 year old son (in just a couple of weeks! eek!) and am pregnant with twins. And it seems like with the combination of his typical (and expected!) behavior of pushing buttons at 3 and my super pregnancy hormones I have not been the most attentive Mommy. Maybe today when he starts his button pushing I’ll just give him a hug. :)

  12. Jessalee

    I’m kind of an asshole if I read a blog late at night while getting ready to go to bed, so I didn’t comment last night initially, but your twitter post about spam reminded me I meant to come back.
    I love these times of perfect motherhood clarity when you realize you did exactly right for your child. They’re not always around for me to recognize like you did here.
    I think this is particularly poignant for me because I have a 5-year-old daughter who does act in much the same way if her schedule is thrown off or the wind blows wrong or she’s having a bad hair day.
    So good job, mama! Hugs, FTW! :)

  13. Emily

    Your post couldn’t have been timed better! I read it yesterday afternoon and last night my daughter had one of her worst melt downs ever. I could tell that she was exhausted, so instead of time out I gave her a big hug and snuggled with her for a few minutes. I know that this is what is needed (I’m a pediatric nurse practitioner and tell my patients this all the time), but when I’m tired and fed up it’s hard to remember. Thanks for reminding me just in time!

  14. Jill

    Reading this post was like re-living a day out of our every-day lives. My daughter has done the same thing, my husband has done the same thing, and we have the same reactions…
    All I can say here is that I’m nodding along as I read…

  15. Aurelia

    I don’t have children, but I have been raising my niece on my own since she was 12. She is 17 now.
    As I was reading your story, I was surprised that you didn’t deal with the way she spoke to her father. It is not okay to be disrespectful no matter how tires or cranky you are. If we could, I would be out of a job.
    I am not sure how old your daughter is because I just started reading your blog, but at what age do parents not solve crankiness with a hug and let them know it is not okay?
    Having said that – I appreciated the parenting lesson. I think sometimes I tend to jump too quickly to ‘you show me respect!’…instead of ‘let me show you some love.”
    Thanks for your story.

  16. Y

    Aurelia,
    I appreciate your comment.
    Of course it wasn’t okay. And we DID deal with it. I just didn’t think it would solve anything to fight her frustration and anger with the same type of behavior. After she had rested, we dealt with what she had said to her father.

  17. Lynn

    I don’t really have a parenting philosophy except this one: When they’re the most unlovable, that’s when they need the most love.

  18. Kathy

    Thank you for the reminder… I sometimes miserably fail at that whole perspective/patience thing (ANNOYED!) because I am tired too (ANNOYED!).
    I think you just made me a better parent …at least for the next few days when I remember that 4 year olds are just cranky and mean sometimes (ANNOYED!) but so are we. And that we can control it and they can’t. (SO ANNOYED!)

  19. Lindsay

    I know from experience how hard it was for you to stop your work and take care of that, too, when it would have been so easy to snap at her and go back to what you were doing. Good job. Who knows? That might end up being one of those moments she remembers for the rest of her life- and aren’t you glad you turned it into a good one?

  20. WarsawMommy

    I really think that there’s a time and a place for everything, including discipline.
    Disciplining an exhausted child rarely gets the desired results… in the case of my son, it actually makes things worse (“You hate me! I am soooooo tired, and you’re being mean to me!” Etc.).
    I also cuddle my son to sleep, and when he wakes up refreshed and happy, THEN I tackle the kid and make him beg for mercy and be very VERY sorry (not really. I just talk to him).

  21. BusyDad

    This is the one thing I should do, but haven’t yet mastered. In fact, I suck at it. I’m bad at it when my kid is bratty, and I’m TERRIBLE at it when my wife is in a bad mood. Nice to read this and know that it works. Thanks for shining this tidbit of light for me.

  22. Boston Mamas

    YES. And one thing Laurel and I do when we’re totally at each other is declare a truce. Literally, sometime Laurel will stick her hand out and say “Truce mommy?” And it immediately makes me forget whatever it was we were fighting about.

  23. Colleen

    A beautiful post. Thank you so much for sharing this. Sometimes it’s so so hard to step back and realize that little ones just can’t always control their emotions… especially when they are exhausted. Good for you for taking the patient route to solving an emotional moment.

  24. Annie @ Mama Dweeb

    Oh wow, this is an amazingly written post! I have had many moments just like this in my own life. It is so hard to see past the tantrums and how mad they make you, but when you do and you have the moment of magical connection – wow it is awsome. That is what makes you a good mom (I don’t know you personally, but a good mom is able to see to the heart of the matter and work from instincts, as you did)
    I found your blog from your twitter account and I am glad I did! You are an amazing writer and talented photographer too!

  25. Tracy

    “Today I learned that sometimes when our children push us away the hardest is when they need our gentle, loving arms to hold them close to us the most.”
    I’m 35 years old. I wonder when my parents will realize this….:(

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