Tuesday, March 15, 2011

repeat after me: "this is supposed to be happening"

She is screaming and going limp on the floor, again.  She skipped her nap and she is teething and tonight she probably won't sleep straight through the night, either.

He just pulled all the books off every shelf of every bookcase of every room.

The toddler just pitched all of my earrings and some necklaces out a window.

The last roll of toilet paper just got dunked into the toilet "by accident, Mommy" while, simultaneously in two other corners of the house, the washing machine flooded the basement and the gallon bottle of milk was tipped over by someone's (awfully cute and dimpled) elbow.


You know what I wish someone had told me about parenting from the very beginning?  That kids are supposed to do that kind of thing, and will often do it on a daily basis.  It's just normal

I was basically told the opposite--that as a parent, it was my job to intervene and to prevent these things from happening, and to teach the child who did it never to do it again (however in the world a two or three year old could learn that lesson, I have no idea)"Kids learn through spanking," I have been told more than once, but I have learned that kids do not and in fact, they will do the same irritating, inconvenient, disobedient thing over and over and over again.  It is almost (gasp) as if they have not learned self-control.  

But Claire, you say, for years you have kept a family blog of all the insane and funny stuff your kids do.  Do you really mean that in the background you were taking it all very seriously? 

Well, not always.  And knowing that the events will be good blog material later definitely helps me remember to keep my sense of humor.  But I blame Dobson for all the other times I have spent fretting over what better method of correction I should adopt that will help my child move beyond his/her fallen-sinful-nature-defiance and into Proper Christian Behavior.  It always sounded off, but it took me years to articulate why.  Any philosophy that preaches that a parent should seek to increase their control over their child, by force if necessary, is mistaken from the very start, period.  It's kind of pathetic that I had to wrestle so hard against indoctrination of that kind in order to finally reach the not-so-very-profound-at-all conclusion that I would like to be the kind of parent who just calmly and quietly mops up the milk (or hands a rag to the child for them to help).  No lecturing.  No ranting or raving.  No mama tantrum required. 

So, to any new parents out there who might stop by this way, here is some advice for the Terribly Trying Toddler years: don't worry and try to laugh as much as possible.  There may be an odd 30-yr-old out there who likes to decorate the livingroom floor with toothpaste, but in all likelihood, with minimal intervention on your part, your child will not be one of them.  Kids grow up and out of these phases pretty quickly.  In the meantime, and depending on the child's temperament, being "consistent" by cracking down on each and every offense is probably only going to make you mad, and it won't have much of an effect on them for a long time (because they aren't reasonable at this age).  Just say No very firmly, grab the mop, and move on with your day.

It might also help to expect your kids to act like they have lost their minds at least twice a day,  which has the added benefit of making you happy any time they don't.  Consider trying to budget in advance for those unfortuante occasions when you need to replace Great Aunt Emily's china plate or candlestick (or whatever).  That way, it won't be a surprise nor a huge drain on the purse, either.  My friend Mary says she keeps some gum handy so she can pop a stick, or two, or ten in her mouth to keep from launching into an unncessary lecture.

Kids break stuff and they are noisy.  It's normal.  It is what they are supposed to do.  Think of it as their job.

Even the part when you get angry and need to go to the other room to breathe deeply for oh, like an hour (or five) is normal.  And btw: I don't buy the Love and Logic shtick of trying to trick your kid out of the pleasure of driving their mama up the wall.  It's all part of normal and fun development (and a healthy childhood) to see what Mom will do when you really make a mess of things, or just howl for thirty minutes straight.  That's why kids put on the show for Mom and not for someone else--because she's safe.  Be happy the kids are safe with you, but don't worry if you get mad or rant and rave once in awhile.  I'm not saying that it is wrong for a parent to feel frustrated, but I am saying: don't think there is something you need to change about your kid.  They're just being a kid.

I will try to remember all of this when mine are teens.  (Someone promise to remind me, ok?)  In the meantime, if anyone out there wants to share lessons learned from the Land of Obvious, please spread the wealth.  Some of us need all the help we can get.

1 comment:

  1. Ha! I'm right there with you in trying to change my mindset from the Dobson us v. them. So many times a day I try to think "how would I want someone to react to my screw ups/crazys/tantrums?" Would I like it if Mike screamed at me every time I forgot something and he had to do it for me? Would I like it if my friends gave me the harsh silent treatment for not being as kind to them as I should be?

    Nobody enjoys spankings or yelling or tantrums. What has helped me the most is to put myself in my kids' place and think of how I would like to be treated when I mess up. Believe me I NEVER want to be yelled at.

    That doesn't mean I never lose my temper, but it does mean my ranting and raving end a little quicker and I am much faster to apologize than I used to be.

    And that cartoon of Calvin nailing the coffee table? Mikey. sigh.