Sometimes, I get cranky. When I do, I might bark at my husband or my mom or my little boy, but only when he is doing something he shouldn’t. I don’t use offensive language and I never name call. But I raise my voice, and I say things in a sterner fashion than I care to admit. My 2-year-old son, along with my husband and I, just returned to the United States after a nine-month stay in Italy. There, he was surrounded by much older family members who generally catered to him. If he wanted to play with toys, he could because no one else wanted them. If he was playing a game with someone, he or she let him win, that sort of thing.
Here in the States, he has two cousins, ages 1 and 3, with whom to pass his time. We recently vacationed in Florida all together. Baby Boy was great, but he hasn’t quite caught the hang of sharing, and he doesn’t know his own strength. He was squeezing his cousins until they pooped (nearly literally) and pile driving them to the ground. Of course, my nephew could never hang onto his toys when Baby Boy was around. Baby Boy thought he was being affectionate and that the toys were simply all his; I was worried he’d cause irreparable damage. I was disappointed that he was that kid, the one who bullies the little guy and throws his weight around. More than a few times I yelled at him. I felt like the barking sea lions in the picture, and I didn’t like it.
Now, I’m not saying I should have just let my son beat up on his cousins or steal all the toys with wild abandon. But I should be more understanding of his age and inexperience being around other kids his age. Therefore, rather than yell I should have more patience and try to show him how to be gentler and how to share. Indeed, after a few days, I started trying this approach. When he slammed his cousin to the floor in a bear hug, I said, “Be gentle.” And then I took his hand and showed him how to caress my niece’s face and sing this song in Italian that ends with both of them getting tickled. When he stole a toy car from my nephew, I gently took the car out of his hand, told him to share with his cousin, and let his tantrum finish out on its own without any yelling from me.
Of course, I’m sure the barking will resurface on occasion, particularly when we hit the teenage years. But I’d like to think that the sea lions are reminding me to keep my voice down. I’m garnering lessons from the entire animal kingdom to be honest. It’s the sweet honey that catches the bees, right?