Sammy got her hair cut a few days ago. There was a drinking fountain in the salon which she could just barely reach with her lips if she stood on the tips of her tippy tippy toes. She had one drink, and then later came back for more - mostly for the challenge, I think. I watched from a few yards away as she struggled to coordinate the pushing of the button with the standing on the tippy toes with the placement of her mouth. Just then, the woman who had cut her hair saw her efforts and ran over to "help" by lifting her up. I swear, Sammy almost hit her across the face, also yelling, "No, stop!"
There was no actual hitting - Sammy just lashed out with her hands, but the woman was behind her so she missed. The woman immediately put her down and Sammy got her drink and didn't make any more fuss about it, but was obviously a little bit disturbed. As we were leaving, I told Sammy that she was entirely right to say "no" to the help, and that the woman should not have picked her up without asking, but that she needed to control her hitting. I told her that a firm "no" would have sufficed. But thinking about it later, I shouldn't have reproved her even for that. What would you do if you were in the middle of a physical task that requires focus, and some stranger came up behind you without warning and picked you up by the waist? I'm not sure I'd lash out, but I certainly wouldn't blame an adult who did so. The important lesson in that situation for Sammy should have been that she did essentially the right thing, not the wrong thing. I should have kept my mouth shut completely.
I love my Sammy's independence, and I'll be damned if I'm going to be a part of killing it. Shame on me. Next time, I'll do better. It's all a matter of being on the lookout for the good, not the bad. Kids don't need to have every minor mistake corrected. (They make so many mistakes it's not like we parents could ever run out of material!) It's much more important that their achievements are recognized, and their virtues acknowledged. I think it's all too easy to slip into the parental mode of just hovering over the child, waiting for the next "teachable moment" to guide their behavior. I'm a big believer in using those moments, but in our roles as guides I think we can get too caught up in looking for those situations. That is what turns even the best of us into the "critical parents" that we all strive so hard to avoid becoming. Let's all just take a chill pill. I will.