259. Planning the Day

I recently heard from a parent who had spent time and energy planning a day during which she could get some of her errands done and do things the children would enjoy. That’s often hard to do, but parents who care about their children do their best. To children, the errands can all seem like the parent’s business, even if much of it indirectly or directly benefits the children. There’s a lot of sacrificing parents do that children take for granted; parenting naturally involves sacrifice. If you’re
planning to have children and not sacrifice, I suggest that you ought to take another look at your plans.
At the end of the day, one of the children complained that she hadn’t had any time to play all day. That is not what the mother needed to hear – not by a long shot. A better response to the day would have been for the child to say, “Thank you for arranging for me to do interesting things, and thank you for managing to fit in your errands, most of which were for our
benefit, in a way that still made the day seem basically child-oriented. You parented very well today.”
Children don’t usually talk or think that way, though. Like adults, children get ideas about how they would like to spend a day. Those ideas may or may not bear any resemblance to the day the adult has planned. And so, from the perspective of the child in this story, the day was unsatisfactory and disappointing.
Try to imagine, now, the parent’s response to the complaint. I don’t know about you, but I like to be appreciated when I go out of my way to do things for people. I get annoyed when my beneficiaries don’t seem grateful. I get even more annoyed when they complain. And that was the initial reaction in this instance.
But then there was a dialogue that can serve as a model for families caught up in similar conflicts. The daughter got more specific, stating her belief that the day had been planned without her involvement, and didn’t include any of the things she’d hoped to do. The mother had set up the day with the best of intentions, but hadn’t included her daughter in the planning process.
The mother heard the daughter, and responded calmly, with respect. Two people who trusted and respected each other, effectively working out an issue. Both may handle the issue better next time. The daughter, instead of complaining, “I didn’t get to play at all today,” may consider the mother’s point of view. And the mother may include her daughter more in planning the day. I like happy endings, and I’m sure I’ve oversimplified both
the incident and the prospects for future incidents. But the story, as I heard it, was inspirational.

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