The glass was sweating in the late afternoon sun, a beautiful icey pink with strawberries floating in it. The pizza was hot out of the oven, and the scent of melted cheese and basil filled the air. We sat down to dinner, and Sienna refused to sit in her high chair. She settled on my lap and we blew on her pizza.
And then she saw the beautiful pink sangria glinting in the sun, and that is when everything started to get a little nuts. I mean I can hardly blame her, lusting after the sangria. Except for that she’s not quite two, and I just can’t justify letting her sip the alcohol even though she was screaming for it, and even though there were big, fat tears rolling down her cheeks. Papa tried to distract her with his bottle of root beer, which she also could not have. She cried harder. I rolled my eyes. Her twin sister started to cry because Sienna was crying. So much for the peaceful summer pizza with a glass of sangria before bath and the rush to bedtime.
I was eating ice cream with my mom after the twins were asleep, when I stared into my eight week olds’ eyes and proclaimed, “we’ll keep you baby, if you promise to never act like your big sissies did tonight at dinner.” Here’s what Meemo said: They all act like that. You acted like that. She’s gonna act like that. Then she said that it didn’t have to be this way. Sienna didn’t have to scream for the sangria, ruin dinner, throw her sippy cup across the table, make her twin start crying to, and then cry because she wanted the root beer and the sangria. We could have said, “Sienna, I know you want that sangria. You really want it. You really really really want it. You really want it really bad.” We could have empathized. We could have let her upset about it, we could have made sure she understood, and then we could have held the limit, sans offer of a root beer bottle she could also not have.
But we’re not Meemo, we’re adults who want a glass of sangria and so I rolled my eyes, but I sort of listened too. Because obvi I don’t want this to be my everyday. Dinner was crazy-town, and I scrambled to eat my last scrap of pizza on the way to the bath, and I wrinkled my forehead because it was stressful and the ice in my sangria melted and it got watery and not as good which didn’t even make it worth it that the screaming ended shortly after they got in the bubble bath. Sound familiar? You, like me, might know it doesn’t have to be this way, but you, like me, might sometimes just need a glass of sangria on a Sunday night.
So, what’s important here? What could we have done instead so that I could have had the damn sangria before all the ice (and the child in my lap) melted down? Here’s how we could have turned that sh*t around:
CONNECT, EMPATHIZE, HOLD THE LIMIT.
Sienna needed connection. She needed to be recognized, validated, and heard. Sienna needed empathy. God knows she wanted that sangria just as much as I did- I could have empathized. And finally, Sienna needed the limit to be held, not the root beer to be offered. I mean I wasn’t gonna give her the sangria, but Sam could have also not offered her the root beer. Getting anything right takes a whole lot of getting it wrong first. Besides, as one of the children upon whom Meemo herself practiced, I promise you, she didn’t always get it right either.
The "What Meemo Said" series is written by Dr. Chelsey Hauge, about her mother Dr. Robin Hauge's advice on managing Chelsey's daughters. Robin's grandchildren call her "Meemo."