I had a perfectly lovely, sweet little girl living with us until she started to walk.
Then she turned into a monster.
For four and a half years before that, I had what I had longed for, what all mother’s-to-be hope for—an easy, happy, cooperative, snuggly little boy—and I felt like the best mother in the world. Then Molly was born.
I felt like sweet baby Molly had been abducted and in her place dropped in this alien child I had no idea how to handle. She suddenly screamed and fought. She didn’t want to do anything, and she certainly didn’t want to do what I wanted her to do. Everything I tried was wrong. I felt like my best-parent-in-the-world medal had been ripped from around my neck.
Molly and I screamed at each other, sometimes from opposite sides of a door I was holding closed. We were in power struggles daily. (Confession: I was a parent educator and recent Masters degree recipient in Early Childhood Development.) What was wrong with this picture?
We all know how much easier it is to see what others need to learn when we can’t see beyond our noses in our own backyard. But I knew that what I was doing felt wrong, so I went on a quest to find what was right—at least most of the time.
Molly was my teacher. I learned in the trenches of everyday battles how to understand her and where she was coming from. When I did, responding appropriately was easy. When I thought she was out to get me, it was all I could do to keep from running away.
It’s all in the perspective. That’s why I love Emily Lemole’s new children’s book, How to Tame a Monster. Emily’s got the perspective thing down.
Violet’s little brother, Rupert, is a monster—everyone agrees. Except Violet. Violet understands what Rupert needs and gives it to him. She doesn’t have to worry about what he will turn out like or what rules he has to follow the way parents do. Violet is simply with Rupert on his level. She understands him. She knows how to connect with him and when she does, he is happy—often annoying, but happy and therefore responsive.
Not only are the illustrations by Emily Quintero delicious (one of my favorites is the look on Rupert’s face when the babysitter puts him in his room), but the story appeals to so many little monsters out there who identify with Rupert. Rupert helps them understand themselves. Violet is the voice of reason for parents to see how much simpler it can be. She is the illustration of how a calm and understanding approach can help a little monster be much less of a monster.
What I needed to learn about Molly was that she wasn’t out to get me. It had nothing to do with me. It was just that so many things overwhelmed her and made her miserable, especially when people didn’t get her—most especially when her mother didn’t get her.
(Note: Molly is now a grown woman and is the person I most admire on planet Earth. Learning what she needed—and what I needed in order to parent her—was the most important learning I ever had.)
I am so happy to be able to offer a free book giveaway of Emily Lemole’s charming, How To Tame a Monster. Simply write a comment below with something about your little monster to enter the giveaway.
On Sunday, June 21 (Father’s Day) by midnight, I will pick a winner using a random number generator. The winner will receive this fabulous book in the mail.
The winner of the book wrote me this email:
We received this book earlier this week and my 6 year old son has asked me to read it to him at least ten times. I’m delighted by it too. Thank you again!