Yesterday was a red letter day. Yesterday, Ben had a speech tournament on campus, and I was home with the kids all. day. long. He left before they woke up and came home after Jack went to bed, and I took them to the grocery store, and made them 3 hot meals, and played with them all. day. long.
I know what you're thinking: this is a red letter day? She wants a medal for this? I do this everyday!
Yes, I know, totally mundane, and I do it most days of the week, too (although Ben usually is home for the morning scramble and the bedtime routine). But yesterday was different. Yesterday, there was NO YELLING, no timeouts, not threats to take away toys, and no toy confiscation.
In short, I kept my shit together all day.
They were shocked.
Not really shocked-- I mean it's not like I am usually a raging shrew or something, but we all had a much more fun day because I lowered my expectations.
Like the expectation that they would get dressed at a reasonable time.
Or that I could get them both in the frame without using the flash
Mostly, though, I let go of the idea that they would play nice, that we'd have fun all day, that my day would be enjoyable and relaxing every second, that I'd be able to clean the house etc.
3 is an interesting age. Harry is so smart and funny but also such a defiant little pain in the ass. I have begun over the past couple of weeks to think that the problem might lie with me and my expectations of his behavior. When he acts out or refuses to listen or is especially annoying, it usually corresponds to my own bad mood, to being yelled at or threatened with toy removal, etc. So I have been trying really hard to not let things escalate at all. I have been using humor to jolly him out of a case of the crabbies even when I want to yell at him for being such an annoying whiner. Instead of asking him to do something that he is just not going to do (pick up the giant mound of blocks in the middle of the room, go get his own cup if he wants a refill, stop jumping off my bed-- things that have in the past devolved into awful power struggles where I end up yelling and Harry ends up acting more and more frantically annoying), we do it together from the start.
When he screams this loud, ugly, earsplitting scream every time Jack looks at his toys (and he does this-- or did it-- a lot), my first impulse that I usually gave into was to yell, "Stop screaming!" Ironic, huh? I have found (and this is not rocket science, so feel free to roll your eyes out of your head) that a nice, pleasant, "Use your words," actually works better! He calms the fuck down and asks Jack really nicely to go away and leave him alone, and JACK DOES.
Sometimes my first response is to yell, and I have to bite the inside of my mouth or take a huge, deep breath. Sometimes my knee jerk reaction is a timeout , but really? I think timeouts are ineffective as a punitive thing and better as a time for calm reflection and getting your shit back together. So I take them for myself-- I put the gate up at the entrance to the boy' room and brew a cup of coffee an drink a few sips of it and just chill the heck out until my 5-minute timer goes off.
I am not perfect-- far, far, far from it, so far that perfect is all the way across the map, so far away that with my paralyzing fear of flying, I know I'll never get there.
There are all these articles going around about how yelling is the new spanking. It's totally taboo to spank, so parents yell instead, is the argument (which I think is flawed on several levels). We are a no-physical punishment house, but we have also seen how ineffective timeouts, yelling, and threats can be. These new anti-yelling articles claim that yelling causes irreparable damage to a child's psyche, and this is probably overstated as well. And all of these articles are written by medical men whose children are probably being cared for at home by their wives while they luxuriate in their child-rearing expertise. And is there yelling in these homes? I don't know, and neither do the guys who wrote the articles, probably because THEY"RE NOT THERE dealing with small obnoxious children all damn day. Reminds me of a story a women's studies professor used to tell about being a neighbor of John Rawls, who hung out in his office writing about justice as fairness while his wife did the work of raising a passel of Rawlsians, instilling them with the tools to build the comprehensive moral doctrines Rawls theorized.
Anywho, it's been about a month of looking at parenting differently, and I credit the introspection provided by NaBloPoMo for a jump start. I'm actually really proud of myself because I have been seeing the beauty and the comedy in almost every moment. Like yesterday at the grocery store when Harry head butted me so hard in my down-theres I almost puked. How lovely. How funny. How droll. I have being trying to be a better, more fun, more patient mom. There's been a lot less yelling, more laughter, less behavior problems, and more silliness all around.
And if I am going to go apoplectic with rage, foaming at the mouth and screaming obscenities while the veins in my neck and temples bulge (an exaggeration), it's when I am getting them dressed or when we're trying to leave the house with all of outr stuff. Any tips?