Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Random Acts of Kindness {March of Kindness 3/25-3/30}


March of Kindness


Well, I think this is going to be my final post for the March of Kindness meme hosted by Code Name: Mama. I plan to continue performing these RAOK's everyday, though. So, if I have a story that might be inspiring or even just interesting to readers, I'll share in a post. Just remember - you don't have to be trying to participate in a special Random Acts of Kindness group-thing to do this stuff. It should be part of who we are. I participated this month in the hope that it would become a habit to look for ways that I could be of help to others - and it did!!!

This past week was somewhat uneventful in terms of how many RAOK's I performed. They were all simple things. I made cookies with my kids (post coming up), picked up some trash here and there... simple things. There are, however, two events that I want to share in a little more detail.

First, my oldest needed his hair to be fixed. I'll have the whole story in an upcoming post, so here are the basics: He's been asking me to cut his hair for a couple of weeks. At 9pm, right before bedtime.... as I'm finishing the dishes and getting ready to make dinner.... in the middle of one of Little Guy's tantrums as I'm trying to calm him down. Get the idea? So, he went to my dad's and step-mom's on Sunday for a combined birthday party with his cousin, who turned 2 yesterday. While there, he asked my step-mom to cut his hair for him. Now, she's cut his hair before and it's never turned out very well. When he came home, he begged me to fix it - as I was putting Little Guy into the tub before bed. He had to go to school on Monday looking like Helmet-Head The Bowl-Cut Boy. So, Monday night, even though I threatened to let his hair stay that way (he was explicitly told not to let her cut his hair - and he went so far as to ASK her!), I fixed it for him. He's now a happy 13 year-old boy who is hoping to live down that one day in middle school when everyone noticed him!

The second RAOK is really important to me. I don't know if you remember that, on Sunday, Code Name: Mama had posed a question on her Facebook wall about: What would you do if you saw another parent spanking or harshly punishing their child in front of you? (You can see the full post with comments HERE.) I really didn't have an answer! Call the authorities? Get the hell out of the area? Get in between the parent and child???? I read each and every comment. My favorite was from Pat R. Here are a few excerpts from her answer (it's really long - go check it out with that link, up there!)
 I try to offer empathy for both parent and child. Sometimes, just redirecting the adult to having an adult conversation changes the energy, because they no longer feel isolated and socially challenged by the child's behavior. Out of probably 30-35 times that I have initiated contact in a heated parental exchange, only once did I encounter an unwelcomed response. I just listened and was sad and cried later. But, I had spoken up for the child's experience, which I trust at least validated the child's feelings.

EVERYONE has *thanked me* for "helping" prior to this, when the family was obviously overwhelmed and feeling out of control, even those who had been threatening, or had just hit, their children in public. But, I listen to folks nearby, if I hear things escalating in a store, I can intervene. I've walked up to folks and "commiserated" and offered "helpful book suggestions" on many occasions. I have a forte for intervening in these types of situations. I do it all the time. It gets easier with practice and with no mal-intent.

My goal is to neutralize the anger, not confront it. And I wish to share tools when someone is open to it. I trust that parents mean well, but people do what they know. And sometimes they have never had models of effective communication and conflict resolution. We are all learning all the time. The book suggestions
"Kids, Parents and Power Struggles" and "How To Talk So Kids Will Listen" are well received, although the titles belie their messages of gentle parenting.
[...]

So, saying something neutral and empathetic like, 'Gosh you both are having a rough day! I know sometimes it just is such a struggle to keep up with all our activities! We get exhausted running from activity to activity and just want to stay home sometimes!'

or, with concerned interest 'Sounds like she is having a tough day? Do you think she is coming down with a cold? I know our son is out of sorts when he is getting sick.'

or, 'Are you just exhausted from the struggle of it all?! I know I we just need a 'stay home day' when we've had too many activities going on for days in a row!'

or, squat down and talk to the little child and say, 'Gosh, you sound so sad. Are you too tired to play today? I know our son gets too tired to come to gymnastics sometimes. I hope you feel better next time.'

OK, how great was that for an answer?! But, after reading, I had to wonder if I would have the guts to actually say something. I mean, I am NOT the confrontational type and I like to think of myself as a "do whatever you think is right" kind of person who does not judge others for their choices. BUT, this was a hypothetical situation in which and innocent, unable to advocate for him- or her-self, was being hurt! I thought about this topic and Pat's answer on and off until yesterday afternoon.

We went to the library to return out late books (yeah, I know!) Whenever I take Little Guy, we always walk way out of our way to get there - I've found that this gets rid of some of his energy and usually keeps him from running through the stacks and yelling. When we got there, we found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, some little guys between the ages of 2 and 6 might even describe it as "nirvana" - A Thomas and Friend Wooden Train Set (every one of the sets AND all of the trains, cars, even Henry the Helicopter!) Of course, he ran right to it and began playing in earnest.

Soon, he had a new friend, I'll call him 'Kevin', join him. Those guys played together famously. They shared, discussed their favorite engines, sang Thomas songs... it was pretty cool to see two kids under the age of three playing like this! Not once did I have to mention sharing or taking turns.

Something was missing, though. Where was Kevin's mom? He had been playing with Little Guy for a good 20 minutes and I didn't see anyone peek into the kids section. I didn't have to wait long to find out. Within 5 minutes, she came to get him. Here's how it went down (my little one standing there ready to lose it at the end):
"You ready to go home now?"
"Not yet, Mommy."
"Well, it's time to go. Say 'bye'."
"I'm not ready."
(Grabbing his arm.) "I said it's time to go. Come on."
"But Mommy I want to play!"
(Dragging him by the arm.) "I said we're leaving - right now! Walk!!!"
(Crying.) "No! I want to play! Please! No!"
"That's it, we're going to the bathroom and you're getting spanked if you don't get moving RIGHT NOW!"

By now the kid was in full-swing, inconsolable, snot and tears everywhere blubbering. You know the kind - where they can't even get a good breath of air? He had crumpled to the floor in a heap. Everyone in the library was looking while trying to pretend nothing was going on. Just as she started to pick him up, I took a deep breath and intervened (Yeah - ME!)

"Um... sure does suck having a toddler with a tantrum in the middle of the library, doesn't it? heh-heh"
I was ready to be told to mind my own F*****G business and wasn't quite sure what my next move would be. But, of all the responses and facial expressions I expected to be confronted with I was completely taken by surprise - she had a look of fear on her face and I could see the tears welling up in her eyes. This poor girl was about 17 years old and looked like she was ready to run for the hills and never look back. OK, I could handle this, I just knew I could help!

I told her how I used to always have trouble getting Little Guy to leave wherever we were when he was having a great time. I gave her a few ideas that worked for me: 1) Tell him you have to leave in five minutes, that way he knows what's going to happen and can adjust to it. 2) Tell him why you have to leave - "We need to go home to cook dinner." 3) Remind him again when he has one minute left. 4) List a bunch of things you're going to do next, so he has something to look forward to "First we will cook dinner, then we'll eat, then it's bath time, and then we can get ready for bed and read this great Thomas book I got you from the library!"

Now, there's one more trick that I keep up my sleeve that is unique to our library. There are train track right across the street from the library. I keep my ears open and, when I hear that train whistle way off in the distance, I get ready to pounce. "Oh! Do you hear THAT?! I hear a train! Hurry! We have to get our coats on! The train is coming, maybe they engineer will honk to you again! Etc..." My little guy will be barreling toward the door when he thinks he might miss the train!

Not only did I manage to stop the inevitable spanking, but I made a new friend. She asked me for my phone number and even told me she wanted to get together so she could see how I deal with Little Guy on certain issues! OMG... I am completely, 100% flattered! I only hope that I can help her. It's not like I'm Super Mom. My toddler has his tantrum moments where I just don't know what to do. I've certainly wanted to completely disappear from quite a few of those situations, you know? But this time, I managed to have the right answers.

And, just as they were leaving, I heard the train. Kevin was so excited that he dropped his Percy train and asked for his coat! And I took that as our exit, too, and Kevin and Little Guy got to see the train together - talking about the names of all the different cars (they even saw a rare caboose!) I can't wait to meet up at the library next week and the park as soon as it gets warm out.


***PLEASE - don't forget about my RAOK for YOU Giveaway! It ends on Sunday (4/3) night at 11:59 pm EDT. I also have a quick giveaway ending on Saturday (4/2) night at 11:59 EDT for a $5 gift card.

13 comments:

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This. Is. Awesome. Seriously - you might have just changed that little boy's childhood. I hope she really calls!

Alicia C. said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

:D She already called today - she and her little one are coming for lunch and playing on Saturday!

Wendyrful said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Alicia, what a nice way to help out the little boy, as well as a frustrated young mother. Enjoy your play date.

teresa said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

This is so wonderful!! The moment where you look into the mom's eyes, is so powerful. I bet we never do that. I think for myself that I automatically get so tense and fretful in that situation that I shut down towards the "angry" parent. I could feel her relief and fear as you described that moment. This post itself is transformative. Thank you! And nicely done.

Kelly said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

What an awesome story...I think I would be so scared to do something like that! You took that chance and it totally worked - bravo mama! I can't say I hope to ever encounter such a situation, but if I do I hope I can be so courageous...

Alicia C. said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Kelly
You know, I really didn't think about what I was doing when finally confronted with the situation. I'm just so glad that that post was on FB and I read through all of the comments. It really got me thinking and I don't know if I'd have said a word to her without that post.

Little I's Momma said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Oh man, I have to give you major Kudos! I don't know that I could ever intervene like that, given the chance. I was always brought up to mind m own business, and I still have a hard time breaking out of that. I'm so glad that you were able to be there and that you had the courage to speak up! Yay, you!

Zoie @ TouchstoneZ said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

What a difference you made in that child's and mama's lives. Even if you never hear anything more, in that one moment you gave them a connection and the idea that things can be easy and loving. Way to go!

Lori said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Popping in from the Alexa hop! Sounds like you had a great outcome! I think as Moms situations get amplified when we are out in public and feeling like all eyes are on us as soon as our little ones start to act out in even the smallest of ways. We can all use a little empathy in those situations. It will go a long way! I have to say we have a lot of trains come through our town and my 4 year old is a HUGE train fan. I use "I think I hear a train!" or "if we hurry, we can go by the depot and see if we can see a train!" as motivators or as redirection tools quite often!

Lauren @ Hobo Mama said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

That is amazing! I am so glad you spoke up and probably changed that little kid's and his mother's life. What a beautiful story!

Andrea!!! said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

Wow - this post actually made me cry! I am also a non-confrontational person (just thinking about confrontation makes me break out in a cold sweat!) but after reading this...well, maybe I could do it too. I'm so glad she's already called you - sometimes we don't need "supermoms" to look up to, we just need friends with kids :) Great job mama, really.

Alicia C. said... Best Blogger Tips[Reply to comment]Best Blogger Templates

@Andrea!!!
I know what you mean about being non-confrontational. I just KNEW I would have blown a fuse had I known she was going to spank that poor kid. Probably wouldn't have turned out as well had I went stomping into the bathroom after her! I'm so glad that the Facebook thing was up there when it was - I really had been mulling over my reactions for a couple of days before this happened.

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