Monday, October 02, 2006

What it REALLY means to be grown up

Yesterday was hairstyling day at our house. This is generally a traumatic day, because combing out three little 'fros is a time-consuming and often painful process. It's followed by scrubbing up in the tub--also traumatic for those who hate water in their faces--and then by more combing, twisting, braiding, and such.

By the time I got to the last braid on the last girl my arms were aching from six+ hours of working on nappy little heads, and my patience was quickly fading. Grace began a dramatic, overly-exaggerated cry. I snapped at her, "Grace, stop being a baby! If you have a real problem then handle it like a grown-up. If your hair hurts, tell me like a grown up; don't just sit there and do a fake cry."

Silence ensued, and even though I felt guilty for using such a cheap, manipulative, shaming technique, I was also relieved that it seemed to have worked.

I hit one last tangle in the braid and tugged. From her perch in my lap Gracie took a deep breath and shouted out, "OUCH! Dang it, that hurts me! Doggonit!"

She turned around beaming at her very grownup way of handling the pain this time around while I was turning the other way so she didn't see me laughing into the towel. Later that night I heard her explaining to her sister Mia that when you get hurt, you don't need to cry, you can just say "dangit" and then you will be a grownup.

Sometimes the thought that I am her primary teacher and mentor in life scares the pants off me.

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