Saturday, March 17, 2012

Parenting for Dummies

As you may have guess from my last post Eli has been a little challenging lately. He's a crazy wonderful kid and is hell-bent on doing his own thing no matter who steps up to the plate. Since it seems we've turned up the heat on parenting lately, I've been thinking in great deal about the topic and have some thoughts to share.

Every child is different and amazing in his or her own way. Every toddler comes with a set of challenges unique to his environment and genetic disposition. In that same vein, every parent is unique and sets his or her own boundaries for the children in his or her own life. With Eli, I've read endless amounts of toddler discipline stuff online and let me tell you...not one word of it has made a difference in the way my child interacts with his surroundings. He is his own little drummer and has the most remarkably strong and independent personality. He is, in a nutshell, one tough cookie.

Somehow though, as a new mom, I often get caught up in what I'm going to call "ego parenting". I worry more about what people around me think about me as a mother than I worry about how I'm actually handling my crazy little ball of boy. I think its inevitable, on some level, to worry about what other people think about us. But I realize it has been dominating my public parenting to a level I'm not entirely comfortable with.

Here's a good example. Eli is two, and because of that struggles *GASP* with the concept of sharing. It's nothing new for his age group, but he is so much bigger than other kids he tends to get pretty physical when he wants his way. The other day I was at an indoor play area with him and he was off playing while I sat on a bench and fed Sammy. I scanned the room at one point and couldn't see him. Then I noticed a dog pile of toddlers and of course, Eli was in the middle of the fray throwing punches and being a two year old. I made my way over to the skirmish, but apparently wasn't fast enough because when I arrived on the scene another mom was pulling Eli off the other kids. She threw him at me and said in a very angry and rude voice, "your son was hitting and kicking the other kids!".

Now...I know what he was doing was completely out of line. I know that he was acting in a way inappropriate for social interactions. I ALSO know all the other kids were fine...and were playing happily again as soon as the pile broke up. Instead of sitting with Eli and calming him down and then letting him go back to playing, I made a big scene of taking him away from the group while he was kicking in screaming and then left the indoor park.

Looking back, leaving was a silly thing to do. He was having a good time, save a few seconds of rough play, and I was enjoying being able to sit and watch him and maybe, just maybe, relax for a minute or two. The only reason I made a big show of wagging fingers and talking in my loud Walmart mom voice was so that I knew the other moms there knew that I was a Good Mom. That I was going the discipline the hell out of my son for being...well...a two year old.

I realized that I do things like this way too often. And I think if we were all honest with ourselves as mothers we would all admit that we "ego parent" much more often than we'd like. I decided that from now on I'm going to try interact with my child in public the same way I do in private. At home the one way I've figure out to get Eli's attention is to stay very calm and be very in control of the situation. I move slowly to get him when he's being naughty so as not to excite him into an escalated tantrum. I've found over and over again that the calmer and more in control of my emotions I am when I need to discipline him the better he responds.

The problem is, in public, this method is very hard to employ because we all want other moms to see us Take Action and really lay into our kids when they're misbehaving...especially if our child does something to hurt another kid. We want immediate and dire consequences for every infraction. But I just can't put my son in time out twenty times every time I go to a play date. It's not fun for anyone. I can't be on top of every skirmish or kerfuffle. I try to be, but dang...they're just two year olds. They are going to fight, they are going to grab, they are going to push and shove and except for immediate physical intervention...that gets EXHAUSTING...we as parents can't resolve every incident.

So I guess my point is; moms, dads, let's be a little easier on each other. If you're at a park and another kid is beating on your kids chances are their parents are horrified, or at least acting horrified, and are doing their best to teach their kids how to behave themselves. Instead of berating other parents, both to their faces and behind their backs, let's just agree that we're all trying, that there is no right way to be a parent, and that we all need to give each other a break.

I can't live my entire life disciplining my son. Believe me...if I wanted to I could probably put him in time out at least once every ten minutes both at home and in public. But the thing is, I love this little guy so much I want him to be happy. I want him to have realistic consequences for his actions but I also want him to breath and run around and get dirty and maybe even shove or get shoved so he can learn that somethings work and some don't when it comes to building relationships with those around him.

I think that's enough of a diatribe for tonight. Let's just all give each other a little more breathing room ok? I promise if you come to my house for a play date I am going to try very hard not to judge you as a parent if you do the same for me. At the end of the day, a small fight between toddlers is not the end of the world. We just need to give them never ending love and making sure they know boundaries, but that they also know that no matter what they do we'll still be here to guide them along.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Oh Boy

Sammy is 2 months old this week. It's been a crazy wonderful few months. Things have sped up in some ways and slowed down in others. The weather (sans today) has been mild and nice and we've been getting out as much as possible. I finally broke down and bought a fantastic double jogger and it has given us mobility and freedom to move around so much more lately. I've decided to start training for the Provo River 10 mile race in June so having wheels is essential right now.

As far as home life goes, things are good but oh so frustrating. Every night I go to bed feeling like such a failure because little Eli is having such a hard time adjusting to having a brother around and Mommy is having a hard time adjusting to Eli' lack of adjustment. He is, to put is lightly, unmanageable. To be more direct, he is hell on wheels.

We worked really hard to get Eli out of his biting stage and thought we'd succeeded. But alas. it's come back with a vengeance and hardly a day goes by I don't end the evening with a few bite marks on my arms. Added to the biting now is his growingly unpredictable temper that manifests itself in all out physical meltdowns. When Eli gets frustrated with something and reaches his breaking point he just looses it and bites, kicks, hits, head butts and punches. I hate it. I never know when he might have one of these tantrums and I have to watch him like a hawk when he plays with other kids. He can be such an angel and such a good kid when he plays with his buddies but every so often he has one of his tantrums and it makes us, shall we say...unpopular in the play-date circuit?

Dan and I sat on the couch tonight shaking our heads after Eli went to sleep trying to make sense of our little whirling dervish. We both agreed that we have never felt more frustrated and at our wits end than we do right now with Eli. We love him. of course, more than anything else in the world but dealing with him on a day to day basis is getting so challenging.

To get a sense of what I'm up against here's a little sampling from the last few days of our stint with the terrible twos. Yesterday as I was putting Eli down for his nap I noticed a lump under his pillow and reached in and pulled out...yes...Dan's power drill. Yup...he was hiding it to try to make a break out from his room when I left. Horrifying. Today after I thought he'd been asleep in his room for about an hour I heard a loud noise and ran in to find that he'd pulled his closet door off. Then later today I was in in the car driving home from an appointment talking to my sister on my phone and happened to look in my rear view mirror in time to see Eli wiggling our of his car seat.

I told Dan tonight that I never get more than about 2-3 minutes of sitting down time in the house before Eli is into something. I've heard people say, "oh just ignore him when he's naughty and he'll soon stop". I ask then. how do ignore him when he's found my sewing scissors and is cutting up my bed spread? Or when he's dumping yogurt on the floor, or trying to hit his brother, or unfold two loads of clean laundry that I hadn't put away yet....or the other ten thousand things that keep my on my toes and off the couch every day?

Anyway, I apologize for the ranting. I love my little boy so much. I just hate that I loose my patience with him so often. It's the worst things I've ever had to deal with. Today when I raised my voice at him after the 3rd time of going into his room when he was supposed to be napping to find him emptying his drawers he looked at me and said, "Mommy...mad." It broke my heart to know he can recognize when I'm reaching the apex of my temper. Poor kid. I'm just a novice mommy. It's going to take some time to get passed this learning curve.