Until recently, Lila and I have had a pacific relationship. But increasingly, I’m interacting with a rapidly evolving and independent little person. This is wonderful overall, but Lila is less predictable and more difficult to manage than she was only a month ago, stretching me as a parent (sometimes uncomfortably).
One recent evening, I picked up Lila downtown. She insisted on walking to the Metro. I pushed her stroller with one hand, using the other to navigate Lila along the sidewalk, while my heart nearly leapt out of my chest. Thankfully, Lila listened when I told her to stop, especially near street corners. Our journey home was mostly manageable until Lila sat in a busy street, while we crossed; I immediately scooped her up and said there would be no more strolling after dark.
Lila has also since refused to sit in her stroller at the grocery store. I reluctantly went with the flow, handing Lila a red bottle of Hershey’s syrup to hold. She liked that, until she spotted other items to hold and touch… You don’t realize how many food packages are glass until you’re chasing a feisty 19-month-old across a grocery store.
I sprinted after Lila, picking up her piles and trying to remember our shopping list. Lila successfully charmed our fellow shoppers (grandparents), but it was my least relaxing or efficient grocery outing ever.
A few days later, I had an appointment. That morning, preparations started out smoothly and everything went well–until departure time. Lila dramatically dropped to the floor to protest. She refused her shoes and coat, pushed away her snack cup and books.
I put my coat on and pulled the stroller toward the door; this persuaded Lila to wear her shoes. In the lobby, Lila ran to the Christmas tree to study the ornaments. I called her, followed her with the stroller, and tried again with her coat. She kept sliding out, even though I explained it was cold outside, then ran away.
“Lila!” I yelled. She glanced at me, then meandered over. The coat went on. Next we fought about the stroller. After several minutes, I tried seating and strapping her in. She cried. I relented, insisting that she walk beside me. We made it outside, but in typical fashion, Lila moseyed, admiring trees and buildings. Frustrated, I carried her. She squirmed. We walked again, faster, as I held her hand. Lila tripped. And sobbed. I picked up my typically cheerful daughter to soothe her, rocking her amidst the busy sidewalk.
I finally tempted Lila into the stroller with Cheerios. She grinned up at me, and I felt grateful. We moved swiftly, and I relaxed knowing Lila was finally secure. Granted, I also felt scarred. I’m not a yeller, and Lila almost never cries. This felt like such a low point.
Thankfully, Lila was soon distracted by the Metro’s many strangers. She easily charmed our whole car, male and female, young and old. Whenever Lila grinned and giggled at me, I forced a smile, since it certainly wasn’t there organically.
I marveled at our situation. I’d reproached Lila and invaded her personal space only minutes earlier. She had already fully regained her cheerful composure and was basking in strangers’ adoration. As we exited, the grandma beside me commented that chatting with Lila had “totally made” her day. Meanwhile, I’d been busy moping about my behavior–behavior that only I seemed to remember.
Through these recent outings and struggles, I’ve (re)learned some valuable lessons: 1) We should have groceries delivered, 2) children are incredibly resilient, 3) yelling is largely ineffective, and 4) no one bad morning shapes Lila’s opinion of me or our relationship. Even if I felt like I failed that morning, Lila isn’t holding a grudge.
In the hopeful–and amazingly coincidental–words of the fortune cookie I opened that night: “Failure is the chance to do better next time.” Here’s to tomorrow.