The Sneeze… please cover your mouth!

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Right when you’re unsure of how your kid is going to do, he steps up to the plate and delivers. We both knew he should pass his yellow belt test, but you’re never sure how these kinds of things are going to go.

Not only did he pass, but he had the best focus during the entire testing that I’ve ever seen. The entire test was comprised of different kids going for different belts and it took about an hour. Jonah’s testing process was smooth and his instructor sincerely told him afterward how proud he was of him and I know that he has seen the huge change in Jonah that we have. Jonah was able to sit still and quite throughout the entire process and watched all of the other students intently. I’m so proud of that kid!!! And he and his yellow belt are inseparable!

In celebration, we went to Red Robin after his test. Both kids were starving and ate like I’d not fed them for days. They were also intently watching and waiting for the balloon guy (a man who walks around tables and makes balloon creations for tips) to come to our table. I wasn’t paying attention, but my dear daughter who was sitting beside me, was hanging over our booth and into the booth behind us while she watched the balloon man’s every move. And then it happened… She sneezed… All over the lady in the booth behind us and probably over her plate of food. The man sitting across from the lady sternly and very irritated said, ‘Excuse me. Please turn around and sit in your own booth. You just sneezed all over my friend and her dinner.’

Why must children be so darn embarrassing?!! I didn’t turn around to apologize. I figured he’d made his point by scolding my daughter. But I did back him up and she quickly slumped as far down into her seat as was possible for a small child. She would have been a puddle on the floor if I’d let her. She just lay there, still and very embarrassed. I sternly scolded her and told her that I’d already been talking about that very exact thing with her (sneezing on me and things and food and the cat and anything else that happens to be in her presence when she sneezes and she sneezes a lot).

And then, as I looked at my puddle of a child, I softened and came to an understanding of how she probably felt. I understood this because I’ve felt that way hundreds of times at the mercy of a condescending adult, nasty peer or just my own stupidity and ignorance. I understand now that the feelings of embarrassment and guilt associated with a mistake are normal and healthy. Those feelings help us learn and grow and process our actions. But I also understand that a child cannot process those reactions and grow from them unless those feelings are validated.

She made a mistake, she was scolded and corrected and she feels mortified. Now what? Do we just leave it at that? I know that’s how it was for me and I remember so many specific mistakes and the feelings associated with them that it makes me sick. Things that have taken me years to get past because I still carry the feelings of guilt and embarrassment because no one ever taught me how to process that junk and learn from it and move on. Well, I have learned, but it’s taken me a long time.

So, I validated her. I asked her how she felt. She didn’t know how to put it into words so I named it what it was… being embarrassed and feeling ashamed about her mistake. Then I told her it was okay to feel that way. That was normal. She understood, but stayed low in her seat. I then told her that I forgave her and that it was okay to move on. I explained that was why I’d been trying to teach her to cover her mouth and turn away when she sneezed and also why we keep personal boundaries.

I’m not saying this made it all better, but it at least got her to process what had happened. She will very likely remember that moment when she is a young adult and may never speak of it because of how it affected her. She did however recover quickly after our short chat, but was afraid to watch the balloon man because it would require her to turn around. So, I gave her the option to sit across from me and later on the other side of me and she gladly took the opportunity to turn a bad situation into a good one and we had a smooth night after that.

We are told ‘everyone makes mistakes’ throughout our lives and that is a true statement, but are we then told how to process what comes along with those mistakes? Guilt, anger, blame, low self esteem, resentment, fear, sadness… it goes on and on. Children are blank slates. Learning every single day how to react and interact socially. Remembering that they do not have the same experience and skills as an adult is so crucial in how we choose to treat them. I want my children to grow into confident, well spoken people and that starts with acceptance and teaching them how to process their thoughts and emotions.

It is valuable to correct a child and just as valuable to teach them how to move past the bad and strive for the good. For Mickey, it was tying the understanding from me teaching her to cover her mouth and move away from someone before you sneeze to her fulfilling the nightmare and doing it in a very inappropriate way. She has been covering and turning away since then and she’s proud of herself for choosing to do so 🙂

I try to parent my children with love and an open ear. I want to hear their thoughts and help guide those thoughts into positive actions and ideas. We verbalize a lot in our household because if you cannot communicate what you are feeling you have no choice but to bottle things up and that leads to no good. My kids have a voice and they learn from their mistakes. Maybe more so the girl than that boy, but my daughter is so much like me that I know she internalizes everything and holds it in to process it silently.

I want her to grow up to be a self confidant woman who is fearless to be herself. That’s one true thing that I regret growing up. I was a pawn to many and tossed aside often and my self esteem often plummeted to the depths because I based my self worth on what my peers thought or didn’t bother to think of me. I want my daughter to base her inner strength on her strong character and not on the stupidity of those who judge her. By finding confidence in ourselves we will grow confidence in others. Again, this is something that has taken me almost all of my life to understand, but I am finally at that point in my life where I am confidant with who I am and strong enough to determine my path, take accountability for my actions and choose to love myself when others judge me as something less than I am.

My continued goal in parenting is to get my kids grown in a safe, fun and responsible way. For now it’s messy and sticky and loud, but it is not without self expression. I’m raising my kids to know who they are and stand firm on their decisions. So far, so good. They are growing and expressing and slowly learning to be accountable for their actions and I’m forever proud of them. Their small successes make my heart happy and I look forward to many more heart to hearts and well deserved accomplishments! Yay to parenthood! Now time for a nap 😉


3 thoughts on “The Sneeze… please cover your mouth!

  1. It’s so hard to watch our kids have to learn these lessons in life. I really want to keep mine in a bubble safe from embarrassment and harm, but I know he would never grow as a person if I did. We had a similar talk with Ty except he was embarrassed about making a mistake, and I had to let him know that it’s perfectly fine to make mistakes. I wasn’t sure how to move on from that so I, like you, asked him how he felt, and a huge geiser of emotion came spilling out! Ha. We all felt better after that… Awesome job Jonah!

    P.s. Tracy I think you’re doing great!!

    • It brings tears to my eyes to know our kids try to be tough and hold back so much emotion. Thank goodness for intuitive parents who are willing to take the time and help them work through these emotions. It’s so good for them to grow and have a safe environment to be themselves 🙂

  2. What great insight you have into children’s feelings. Because of your own experiences, you’re able to understand and help Mickey. It’s good to see how quickly Mickey learns – first to cover her sneeze and second to forgive herself and move on.

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