We went to the market today, and baby saw the bouncy castles. We had checked them out before but she wasn’t ready. Today, she said she wanted to go in.
I paid, she took off her shoes, and then asked me to hold her. And we stood there. We looked in. She talked about it. I coached her. I coaxed her. She peered into the opening, and then backed out again.
Finally, somehow, she felt ready and climbed in, with a tiny encouraging push from me. She jumped for maybe 1 minute – loved it – and came out.
After watching for a while longer, with lots more encouragement from me, she seemed ready to go in again. She was right by the entrance, but didn’t move. Looked in. Backed away. Asked me to hold her. Talked about the other children inside. Asked questions about what was happening.
Finally, as she was peering in the entrance, a sweet girl inside (she had played with her once before) came over, said she wanted to help her, and pulled her in. To my huge surprise, baby went willingly! She jumped for about another minute, and was done. We left.
This process was extremely challenging for me emotionally. I had to remind myself that she and I are separate people, and that the point of this activity is her personal development and fun. I wanted urgently for her to just get in there and jump because I felt she would enjoy it. At some point, I realized that that was completely outcome-oriented rather than process or relationship. How am I treating her during this time? Am I shaming her for not being ready to go in, or hearing her concerns and celebrating what she does? Am I focused on her emotional well-being and joy (she did love jumping!) or on having her rack up accomplishments and demonstrate particular social skills? Am I focused on her experience, or my ego?
In the end, we both came away happy. She jumped; I celebrated her jumping and her fun in doing it; and we were a team in making it happen, rather than in conflict with me pushing her.
Though we have had other, much more challenging moments today, I’m glad with the outcome of this one.