I went hastily to her with the Intent of grabbing her up and moving her to where I wanted.... (Mean mommy mode!!)
Instead, as I picked her up I made a conscious decision to not battle this battle with my 4 year old - who is not yet 5, but will be soon enough! And isn't 5 a funny little age when all of the sudden your "baby" becomes a "kid?" I picked her up, knowing she was exhausted, and cuddled her close. I took her to the bath and instead of ordering her to comply and take off her clothes, I did it for her while she cried (for unknown reasons!), I hugged her again, and said, "it's okay, Baby. Mommy will do it." I picked her up and placed her in the tub. I washed her gently. I got her a super fluffy towel and wrapped her upand held her tight again. By this time she had calmed down, feeding off the new calm attitude I decided to have. Yes. I DECIDED to be calm, because I was feeling FAR from calm when I succumbed to my emotions.
Then, for the first time in a long time, I rocked my baby girl to sleep. Yes, I completely babied her! But, clearly she needed that from me for whatever reason. Most likely because the new independence she is striving for is exciting to her, but it's also scary!
Babying her tonight didn't set her back in her social-emotional development. It was one night of letting her know she's still my baby, she can still count on me to meet her needs, and I'm still her safe place to come back to when things get too new or too scary. If anything, giving her that tiny bit of security will actually further her independence.
And, I kept myself from engaging in a battle of wills with my preschooler that we would have both ended up losing at! By calming myself down, I changed the whole tone of the situation. By turning up the nurturing, I actually took control of what was going on and defined the roles: me as the parent, her as the child. Had I let my frazzled emotions take over (which I HAVE done, believe me!), I would have given up my control and made her even more uncertain about who was in charge because she had the ability to upset me! Then, she'd have felt more insecure and dug even harder to force me to prove I had control and the cycle would have continued on and on.
I'm not writing this to toot my horn! I've actually battled this girl all weekend! I'm writing because I'm ashamed it took me all weekend to "get it" and alter my tactics! At first it felt like I was "giving in" but then I realized that as I soothed her, she was the one giving in.
So often in life we have to make decisions about our emotions and how we act on them. Emotions are deceiving and we can't always follow where they lead. There are times we have to make the choice to switch gears and react to situations in ways that defy our initial "feelings." If not, then how are we any more mature than a 4 year old??