Since we have been shopping for a new vehicle on top of being busy with baby prep and Dr. appointments Little Lady has had to be extra cooperative and accommodating as she has been carted from car to car, building to building. She has done extremely well with the situation but the other night on the way home from a particularly long day of appointments and almost no play time she was beginning to be....well...two. Testing our patience by teasing, talking non-stop, and prancing around at a frantic pace.
On the way out to our vehicle to finally return home for the evening she decided to test her limits a little further and rather than wait patiently for daddy to put her in her car seat...run away. She didn't get very far before I caught her but in the process of distracting both parents a balloon she had received from a dealership earlier that day escaped from the car and was whipped away by the wind.
Immediately she began begging for the balloon back. Of course, neither Prince Charming nor I are The Incredible's and though we have many abilities...none of them are superhuman enough to catch a helium balloon on a windy day. On top of that we are pretty paranoid parents when it comes to traffic or parking lots. We've seen too many accidents to let a toddler take off on their own whims when cars are around. Little Lady knows that she is always supposed to hold our hands when walking anywhere around cars. She also knows that if our hands are full she is supposed to stand right beside us and wait while we unlock the doors and put things in the car so we can secure her in her car seat. So when the balloon decided to say goodbye we explained to her that this was an example of what happens when someone doesn't listen. If you don't follow the rules accidents happen and sometimes the consequences of our actions can't be undone.
Immediately she burst into heart broken tears and begged that she would do better next time so could we please get her balloon back. At first I didn't find it too difficult to reiterate our earlier explanation. "This is what happens when you don't listen." etc. But as the evening wore on and even once she was in bed she would still suddenly burst into tears crying,
"Oh Mommy...I REALLY wanted that balloon!"
I found myself struggling significantly more every second. All I wanted to do was get back that balloon, or give her another...or even bribe her with another treat. Anything to stop her little heart from breaking. Suddenly I understood parents, especially of teens, who never seem to allow their kids to suffer any consequences. Often I've seen a kid write off a car or break a toy because they were handling a situation badly only to see their parents give them a little lecture before abruptly buying them a new one. I've seen kids miss events or activities because they were careless with time or information only to see their parents passionately pursue every effort to make that opportunity possible for their child...even though it was the child's own fault in the first place. When watching other parents I often wonder why they don't allow their children to suffer a consequence now and then. How will they ever learn if mommy and daddy are always there to erase the mess?
But when I saw the heartbreak a simple balloon could cause when it blew away...I suddenly understood all those other parents and immediately took back every judgement I ever made. I didn't get her another balloon or buy her off with something else but I can tell you it was a battle. I DID hold her and hug her and tell her I understood her disappointment. I DID tell her that there would be other balloons and remind her that she was much more special than a balloon which is why I wanted her to listen so she too wouldn't get lost. I DID give her an abundance of hugs and kisses to calm those tears.
I can tell you now that sometimes discipline sucks. Sometimes having to allow natural consequences for your kids is just plain miserable. I still think that in order to learn we all have to suffer some fall out from our actions...but I'm telling you...if I could have brought that balloon back...I probably would have.