This Thursday, I explored new territory.
Yep. I went to my first mom’s group.
I’m a little late to the stay-at-home-mom scene. I’ve been working up until this point, so I was the one who had to politely decline morning bible study invites, midweek play dates, and spur of the moment trips to the zoo.
It was hard at first, being THAT mom. Feeling somehow disconnected from my daughter. But slowly I learned to give myself grace. An allowance for our circumstances. And to do the best I could with the time I did have with Ellis.
But today I saw things from the other side of the fence. Literally.
The mom’s group met at Sundance Mission Stables just north of Scandia. While the older kids were taught a lesson in grooming horses, the mamas with babies and toddlers in tow congregated in the horse barn with Barb, the owner. Barb had a single horse on a lead rope, and she asked each of us if we wanted to lead the horse around the ring, back it up, turn it around, etc.
As the women took their turns, it was evident many of them had never been around horses. Barb took this opportunity to connect how they asked the horse to obey with how they asked their children to obey.
Some of the women were timid. Some had difficulties asking the horse to back up. Some were not sure whether to lead or to follow the giant creature gently plodding the dirt ring of the enclosure.
And in the back of the group, I stood there thinking, “I’ve SO got this.”
I grew up around horses. I participated in horse camps, riding competitions, and even took English dressage lessons for a summer. If there’s one animal I know a lot about, it’s a horse.
So when it was my turn, I confidently walked up to the horse with Ellie on my hip, patted his nose and neck for a moment to introduce myself, and then firmly took the lead rope and led the horse around the ring.
After putting the horse through his paces and arriving back to Barb the facilitator, I expected to be congratulated. I was confident. In charge. I made sure the horse did everything it was supposed to.
Barb smiled and said, “Well, I can always tell a lot about a mom’s parenting style by the way she approaches the horse. This assertive, or even aggressive method certainly gets the job done, but leaves the door of resentment wide open for children later if they are not given a little more space, or rope on the lead.”
Aggressive? Assertive? I was thinking more like “Wow, she was great with that horse. See how she was calm and in control?”
I smiled it off, made an offhand comment about having a little horse experience, and let the next mama take her turn. But inside, I felt off kilter. Me? Aggressive? Seriously? How does she decide this from how I walk a horse around the ring? Is she some sort of parenting guru? I’m so even keel. Kind. Calm. I DO NOT GET MA…
I am the parent who responds immediately with a raised voice if my daughter is doing something she shouldn’t. And I’ve done my fair share of shoulder-hauling to the timeout step in our house, and yes, I’ve spanked my daughter when she’s bitten me (it’s the only swattable offense in our house these days.)
I’ve also questioned how effective any of this really is. (Seriously. If my daughter puts herself in timeout when I point to the stairs, I might need to rethink things.)
Afterwards, I met some really great people, reconnected with an old friend, and breathed a prayer of thanks for the mothers that were prepared and brought more than an air temperature 32 ounce water bottle for their toddlers at snack time.
(I thought I was doing pretty good to remember the water bottle.)
The more I am faced with these everyday challenges, the more I realize I have a lot to learn about what children need. (Uh, snack food, for starters.)
But more so, I think I need a little more calm to balance my firm hand. A gentle voice instead of an angry one. The patience to get down at face level and talk a situation through instead of immediately resorting to time out. Don’t get me wrong. All the latters have their time and place. I just need to figure out which and when.
Preferably before the twins turn two. Which means I have a long ways to go.
Do you have a preferred parenting tactic for toddlers? I’d love to hear it. Really. Truly. Comment away.
PS – In other small accomplishments, I figured out how to completely collapse the stroller, and then forgot again when I had to leave and ended up manhandling it only half folded into the back of the van. I think I also got manure on my shirt in the process, but I’m just chalking that one up to the hazards of mom’s group on a farm.