Toddler at the DMV

So, I procrastinate. Not all the time. Not horribly, but sometimes I put off needed things because I find the idea of them daunting. I know, who does that? Right?

See, I know I’m not alone.

I also know that everyone can understand how I would put off getting my car smog checked and going to the DMV to get California plates, given that (a) it’s the DMV, and (b) I’m bringing Fiona with me on all these adventures.

My temporary drive permit expired today. So, I did what everyone does, I sucked it up and got it over with. I took Fiona with me into the DMV. My bravery deserves a metal.

So, does my planning. Before we went to the DMV, I took her to the park to feed the geese, to the playground with her best friend, and to Burger King for a hamburger with nothing on it and fries.

She was an angel. She sat next to me. She played with my phone. She talked to everyone and charmed them all.

She was her usual self. She got way to close to everyone. She told everyone that she loved them. She was way to interested in people to sit still. She about had a temper tantrum when I told her she had to stay by me.

There is a vast difference between those two descriptions, but they’re both true. As we were leaving I was wondering why sometimes she’s so good and sometimes she’s so frustrating and defiant, and I realized that, for the most part, she’s the same. My expectations and mood change and so does the way I describe stuff to myself.

If I focus on the outcomes of our visit, we get the first paragraph. If I focus on the process, we get the second.  It’s all a matter of how I tell the story.

I think a lot of parents learn that, when we’re talking to each other, we’re supposed to describe the second way to each other. We’re not supposed to say when our kids rocked something, we’re only supposed to describe being driven nuts. And, I know, we’re not supposed to pretend to be perfect.

But, I’m having trouble with the fact that when we describe parenting as frustrating and upsetting, we actually cause ourselves to be more frustrated and annoyed. When we focus on the negative in our kids, that’s what we record as our memory.

That’s not what I want.  I want to remember this DMV visit as the one where three different people told me how nice Fiona was and one person told me that she had made the trip to the DMV fun.  I want to remember that, just being herself, Fiona rocked the DMV and made people feel happy.

It’s a conundrum. Do I tell people how awesome she was at the DMV? Do I tell them how much work it was to keep her near me at the DMV?

It makes me sad that if I tell people she was great, that I’m considered to be bragging or pretending, but if I tell them how much work it was it hurts my heart a little bit, because she was so amazing and what I want to share is how great she was.  Sometimes, I just want to look at the DMV through rose-colored glasses. Sometimes, I just want to only remember the positive. Sometimes, I think it’s healthy to pretend that the hard stuff wasn’t so bad, just as natural as breathing.

So, today, I took my toddler to the Department of Motor Vehicles. While we were there, she was wonderful. She listened and stayed close to me, she made friends, and she basically impressed and charmed everyone. Fiona rocked the DMV.

(And my car is now officially Californian.)

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2 thoughts on “Toddler at the DMV

  1. I love that Fiona rocked the DMV! And to praising your child, and being honest, it should be possible to do both. The difficult thing is knowing that the facts are important, AND that opinions are important. You can tell the story of how people were charmed and say that her enjoyment of that attention made it a little difficult at times to keep her close by because of her enthusiasm. You can say she had a temper tantrum, but also explain that there were a lot of people and your social-introvert got a bit overwhelmed.

    It’s about balance. Fiona is not a bad child. Few children are bad children, with the exception of the undiagnosible sociopaths that do terrible things to the neighborhood pets….children are just children: curious, energetic, enthusiatic, egocentric, and special. I think you do a great job of being “honest” about her behavior. It’s about seperating how her behavior makes you feel from her intent. Her intent is rarely negative. Her actions may be inconvenient, but her heart’s almost always in the right place, and her actions make sense to her, given the logic available at her level of development, therefore she’s a good kid.

    *nods nods*

  2. If she can hear you, praising the things she did well to other people goes a long way! I actually was just posting about how “bragging” can help your child’s behavior. Negative behaviors need to be corrected, of course, but pointing out all the specific positives (I like how you are staying next to me, great job sitting in the chair, you’ve been very patient waiting, etc) are great because your child naturally wants to please you. Telling OTHER people how great your child is makes her feel really great about herself; seeing that you are proud enough to share her successes will make her want to repeat them.
    Empty compliments don’t do anything, of course, and nebulous praises or “character” praise (you’re smart, you’re pretty) don’t achieve much. Specific praises work wonders, though. Congrats on a good DMV visit. I hate the DMV no matter what my kids are doing!

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