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Pushing buttons

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Woody, probably more than either of the other two kids, really knows how to push my buttons. Push and hold my buttons. He's proud of this, too. Go ahead and ask him - and watch a sly grin overtake his face.

Handling this aspect of parenting Woody has been and is one of the more challenging things about being a parent. I have to be careful to be consistent and firm without being overly harsh. I need to let him know that I do understand, but it's still not okay. This ability he has to get to my irritable spots isn't something he learned, it's just something that is. It's part of his innate being. And many of the things that irritate me the most are the things that I struggled with quite a bit at the same age. There are so many ways in which we are alike, Woody and I. Poor guy.

I want Woody to learn how to handle these behaviors sooner rather than later because I don't want him to go through some of the frustrations later on than I went through. Being determined and stubborn and wearing your heart on your sleeve can be okay or even good in some situations, but definitely not all. I want to help him learn when to let go and, hopefully, not let things bother him so much. It's a tall order. I'm still learning those lessons myself.

Oh, I know I can't protect him from everything or teach him everything or save him from his own personality. But shouldn't I still try?

Try to help him understand that "fair" is subjective. That just because he can do something doesn't mean he should. That he has as responsibility to use his whip smart noggin for good. That kindness always matters. That it's okay to be joyful. That hurts sometimes hurt for a really long time, but it does get better. That he can always stand up tall and proud if he gave it his best effort. And acceptance and love can always be found in his family.

Woody may know how to push my buttons, but he's also the one who comes up to me at the end of long days and rubs my back and offers, without any prompting, "I love you, Mom."

And so I keep trying.

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