Sunday, March 22, 2015

The Amazing Momford's Magic Act

Did you watch Sesame Street before Elmo took over?  Then you might remember the Amazing Mumford the magician and his peanut butter sandwiches, and may have understood my punny blog post title.  If not, now you do.

I think parents, and by default, grandparents, end up learning a lot of "magic" when rearing children.  It's mutually beneficial for both parties to at least attempt to pull this magic out when disaster threatens.

When I see people out with little kids, I try to cut them slack if the kid is causing a ruckus, or if they're seemingly ignoring the child.  We all have our moments, and it's not like I've been following you around for an hour and saw the 45 minutes you were trying to contain your child, or were answering an endless stream of "why?"

So when I saw who I'm guessing was a grandmother and her granddaughter in the thrift store yesterday morning, and the grandma was snapping at the girl to be quiet, I tried not to judge.  Never mind that she told her to be quiet, to stop moving, to quit being naughty, and that she would get a spanking at even the hint of the girl (who was pretty well-behaved for a toddler in a thrift store) opening her mouth or making the slightest movement.  That grandma wanted to thrift in utter silence.  "Maybe the girl has been tearing it up all morning, and the grandma just needs a moment's peace," I thought.

Imagine my surprise (or lack thereof, I suppose, if I'm honest) when I heard a woman snapping at a child to be quiet this morning at the flea market, and I looked up and saw the same pair.  The toddler who had been through the thrift store the morning before, was now being walked through rows of dusty wooden Pepsi crates and yellowing doilies at the flea market.  And if she dared to make a sound or balk in any way, she was scolded.  

I couldn't help but think what a difference a bit of magic might make.  (Note: I said might.  Maybe it had been tried.  Maybe the rest of the day was spent swimming with bottlenose dolphins in a sea of ice cream and sprinkles, and the grandma needed half an hour of junking.  I don't know.  But for anyone who wants to jump down my throat for "judging," this is my disclaimer.)  My favorite magic trick is misdirection.

When Lucy was younger - closer to this girl's age - she was stronger.  And highly irrational.  I believe it's also known as the "terrible twos."  Anyway, I could go head to head with her over her tantrums, and she had the strength to scream and bawl it out (at a much lower decibel than most toddlers,) and I could stand by with a suction while she screamed her way through staring at the wall for being such a snot.  Good ol' regular parenting.  And when I wanted to do something that she maybe wouldn't have otherwise cared for, we made it a game; peekaboo at the fabric store, shaking water sprinkles off the veggies while making dinner.  When all else failed, and it was something that no fun could be extracted from, she got a diversion while I took care of the necessary (re: a video of her choosing.)

As she's gotten older, the irrational, short-tempered toddler has been replaced by a young girl who has anxiety issues.  They stem from identifiable sources, and are warranted, and we are trying to work through them.  As she's aged, she's also gotten weaker.  Crying rapidly - rapidly - turns into hyperventilating that she can't recover herself from, and quickly becomes an emergency for her.  The magic of misdirection has become crucial for Lucy, for her safety and well-being.  Calm discussion, or singing a favorite song works the best now that she's older... though she is still a huge fan of playing game and general silliness in stores and at home, because that's just who she is ;)

All this to say - just try some magic.  I know you're tired, and you want to possibly uproot your hair, and you just need to get these errands done, or you just want a moment to yourself.  But before you resort to snapping out threats or growling a punishment at your child... take a breath, stoop down, give them some REAL attention, and make it a game.  Find something pretty to marvel over.  Make airplane or monster truck noises with the cart.  Shake the red peppers you're washing like maracas.  Be your own little Mary Poppins.  I guarantee you, you will both come away from the experience feeling worlds better than if you had skipped over that time you could make your own magic, and acted on your frustration instead.