Tag

consequences

My Child Is A Lot

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My oldest is a lot. A lot of energy. A lot of bouncing and running and jumping and swinging. A lot of questions. A lot of talking and yelling and singing and noise-making. A lot of toys all over the floor. A lot of water all over the bathroom. A lot of big feelings. A lot of “Can I have a snack?” and “Can I watch a show?” and “Can you play with me?”

She is a lot of creativity, used for both good an evil. She is a lot of challenges. A lot of sass. A lot of defiance. A lot of strength and fire and spirit and independence. Yes, she is a kid. And. She. Is. A. Lot.

There are days where I just can’t. The steady stream of noise and energy wears me out. By the time she goes to bed, I’m exhausted.

I see it in other people, too. At first they are enamored with her charm and intensity and passion. She is well spoken and her opinions are often comically adorable, so she can be very entertaining.

But the intensity can quickly become overwhelming. You can only answer so many questions about bees before you feel like you’re going off the deep end just a little.

As a parent, what’s the most important thing here? This entire blog is centered around the idea of parenting her without putting out that fire. And yet, people are collaborative animals. Our survival depends upon finding a place in the herd to “belong”.  We teach our children manners and social norms to ensure they will be accepted into the pack, increasing their chances of survival. So my maternal instinct impulse is to bring the raging prairie fire down to a controlled burn.

Is that the best thing I can do for her? I don’t know. Parenting strategies of the past would say yes. But today? Maybe the world needs a little more fire.

Can we teach our kids “how” to be without controlling “what” to be? She can be fiery and fierce and passionate, but how can she be those things in a way that is safe and kind and respectful of others?

Because I don’t want to teach her to change who she is just so others will accept her. But i do want to teach her how to be herself in a way that is kind and respectful to others. I want to teach her awareness, so that she can use her fire, but not without understanding the consequences. Not without being aware how fire can affect those around you. 

Perhaps, then, it is about teaching her self awareness. Rather than telling her how she should be, I teach her to be aware of how she is and how it affects others. In that way, I teach her how to make choices for herself. Isn’t that what authenticity is all about?

In the end, I want her to find her tribe. The people who appreciate that fire and intensity. I want her to figure out how to use that fire to change the world. I want her to know that she is perfect the way she is, and that even on the days where she wears me out, that I will always be grateful for how she challenges me to grow.

The Beautiful Ugly Truth

 

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A sink full of glitter residue is a hard thing for a photo to capture.

Why is my sink full of glitter, you ask? Because the truth is, even as much as you want to believe change is easy, it just isn’t.

I just wrote in a post about how well my four year old has handled the transition out of only childhood. And she has. She adores her baby sister and I hear her say daily how she is “exactly the baby she wanted.” It’s adorable.

And it’s not entirely true. Because by the fourth week, the novelty is wearing off and sh*t is getting real. Don’t get me wrong, she still loves having a baby around. But after so many times of being told to “quiet down” or having to be patient while mommy pumps or when evening routine gets changed up because baby is crying from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. then it starts to get old. And her four year old self demands a rebalancing of the attention the only way she knows how: by being naughty.

Now, I’m not an unreasonable person. Nothing we have encountered has been unmanageable. A little mouthiness here and there, a lot of bouncing off the walls and not following instructions, and the more creative ones like hiding food and wrappers under all the furniture in the living room. No major pieces of the household have been ruined, no major expenses incurred, no one injured or even truly put in danger. When this stage passes, the few incidences we even remember will be remembered with humor.

But I’m tired. Going on three to five hours of sleep per night for four weeks now, in addition to adjusting our entire lives, juggling visitors, and having my needs come last every day takes its toll, no matter how much I wish I could be super mom. So today when I came out from putting the littlest down for a nap and found a living room full of toys covered in glitter glue (as well as carpet, pajamas, and hands), I lost it.

I yelled. I stomped. I ranted. I confiscated toys and not-so-quietly deposited them in the sink to be washed. And I kept ranting, my anger growing, as I washed the glittery preschooler in the tub and then stood over her as she cleaned up her room and then went to time out. For a while. Like an hour, moving rooms with me wherever I went, jumping from one time out spot to the next because, as I explained to her, I could no longer trust her to be alone.

I washed the toys and finally sat down in the living room to supervise her still ongoing timeout. She sassed. She cried. She went through the whole lineup. And try as I might, I couldn’t stop being mad.

I know it is a cry for attention. I know it is. And it was a mess, but it was cleaned up. No permanent damage was done. But I just couldn’t stop being mad. This isn’t a two year old learning right and wrong: she knows we only do glitter glue at the table and not to put food or wrappers anywhere but the trash, etc. These are all established rules that she normally follows. How could I not be mad? As I sat there, trying to reason my way back to reason, I wondered for the millionth time what the right thing to do is.

Somehow in my life I have come to the belief that if a consequence isn’t severe enough, the lesson won’t stick. I can see the reason behind the theory. But human behavior rarely follows predictable equations. So I find myself wondering if it is true. Isn’t the very nature of a negative consequence to inflict discomfort, thereby dissuading the same behavior in the future? If it’s not uncomfortable, there’s no reason not the repeat the behavior.

I don’t know the answer. Theorizing aside, having to enforce consequences sucks.

But I believe it’s necessary. When you do something that impacts other people or their things in a negative way, you should experience discomfort. I hate being the parent that’s constantly nagging my kid to be polite, respect people’s space, and so on and so on. But I also know that I don’t want her to grow up thinking it is ok to be disrespectful and rude to others. Because then people will never see the amazing human she is, they will only see the bad behavior. And I would hate that even more. She is incredible and she deserves to be seen.

So I sit and I wonder: how long, how severe, how uncomfortable do I have to make this for her to remember? How can I make this an effective learning experience and not just a crappy afternoon?

She crawls in my lap and I look into her big brown eyes and ask, “What should I do? How do I teach you that this isn’t ok so that you will remember?”

She looks back at me and says simply, “You could always just use hugs.”

And my heart breaks and melts and I love what a beautiful little human she is and I hate that this is so hard. Because I would love to just use hugs. But it doesn’t always work like that.

And then her dad comes to get her. It hurts to let her go on the good days. It hurts worse to let her go in the distracted days. It hurts the most to let her go on the mad days. I spent the afternoon being mad at her and now I have to send her away.

Everything. About. This. Sucks.

But I help her put her shoes on. And I fake it so she doesn’t know how much I hate this. And I hug her and tell her for the millionth time that I love her even when I’m mad. Always. No matter what. And she brushes me off because she already knows that and she’s excited to go.

And when she walks out the door, the sleeping baby wakes up and is ready to eat. Life doesn’t slow down long enough for you to wonder if you should have done it all differently.

And maybe next time I will. Or maybe I won’t. The truth is, raising a human is one of the most beautiful things you will ever do, but sometimes things can get ugly and hard and uncomfortable. No matter what you do, there will be hard parts and consequences and anger and frustration.

But there will also be hugs. And even though it can’t always be only hugs, there will still be hugs.

Let the Consequence Do the Teaching

 

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It was purely by chance that I happened to look at the calendar Friday morning on my way to get my daughter ready for school. Imagine my surprise to find “No Preschool” in bold lettering that I had somehow managed to overlook in the whole month that the calendar had been hanging on my fridge.

With a whole day now open, my brain began to swirl with possibilities. There is a children’s museum we haven’t visited yet in a town about an hour away. Conveniently, it is in the same town as the nearest Target.  And so the plan was made. Make the hour drive, stop at Target, eat lunch at the park, and then visit the museum.

Fast forward through the drive, the store and the picnic to the scene at the park. There had been impending signs of a certain version of “attitude” that has been appearing more and more often. Example: She wanted to climb the observation tower, so we did. At the top, she pouted the entire time that I had misled her into believing she would get to “climb” the tower, not just walk up the stairs. (See photo.) On the way back to the car, the big meltdown finally happened.

We walked through the park’s little amphitheater with a concrete stage. I stopped and did the overly-excited-parent thing, thinking she would love the chance to be up on a stage all to herself. Instead, she pouted, which quickly turned into a full-blown, irrational temper tantrum.

I’ve been sporadically reading the “Love and Logic” book lately, mostly as a “motivational refresher”. I’ve found myself at a loss (for lack of better term) on several parenting challenges lately and turned to my books for help. There’s more to that story, for a later post.

Anyway, in the midst of the meltdown came the clear opportunity to practice what I had been reading. Rather than getting pulled into the emotional storm or launching into a lecture, I calmly reminded her that if she was throwing fits and having a bad attitude we wouldn’t be able to go the children’s museum, we’d have to go home. As I imagine is true of most parents, I had fallen into the bad habit lately of threatening consequences and then not following through with them, but instead riding out the battle until I got the outcome I wanted.

But today, I wasn’t going to battle. And today, she was calling my bluff. Despite the clearly stated expectation and consequence, she spiraled further into chaos, finally resulting in me carrying her kicking and screaming the last one hundred feet to the car. I almost lost my patience. I may have closed the car door a little harder than necessary. The impulse to launch into a lecture was overwhelming. To lecture her until she caved and gave up the battle so we could go on with our day.

But I didn’t. I took a few deep breaths and sat for a few extra moments before starting the car. And then I did my best to adopt the firm, empathetic patience I had read about. She cried when I explained that we were driving home because she had thrown a fit. I told her that I was sad, too. That I had been excited about our trip, too, and that it was too bad we had driven that far and not gotten to go to the museum. Rather than try to fit the lesson into a lecture, I simply carried out the consequence.

I can tell you this: it’s more fun to lecture. But lately, I’m tired of going to bed feeling like I spent the whole day lecturing this little human that I would rather be discovering. Letting the consequence do the teaching is hard. Holding the boundary is hard. But there’s one thing that makes it all worth it:

When there’s no battle, I get to be on her team.

We drove home. She went through sadness and then anger and frustration and back to sadness. She blamed me for most of the trip, but before we arrived home I heard a shaky, tearful voice from the back seat say “If I hadn’t done this we could have gone to the museum.” The sweet sorrow in her voice broke my heart into a million pieces. But she had made the connection between her behavior and the consequence. She had taken responsibility for her actions.

We went home and cuddled and took a “break”, because that was what she needed. When she was sad, we were sad together. When it was time to move on and make the best of the rest of our day, we did it together. And doesn’t that seem like the way it should be? Parenting is so much more fun when I’m standing beside her and not behind the podium.