Thursday, January 06, 2011
Love in a time of "No!"
So, let's see. We left off on Tuesday, with me feeling kind of defeated by the challenges of parenting an increasingly willful toddler, but also appreciating how increasingly clever he is becoming. Remembering the good moments of the day is an important thing; it would be easy otherwise to get bogged down by the frustrations and difficulties.
Wednesday went quite a bit more smoothly for us than Tuesday, not least because we were out of the house from 10am until 4pm. We had a playdate followed immediately by another playdate/lunch/preschool planning meeting. Both kids got to run and romp and play with their friends. I got to spend hours interacting with other adults. It was really a win-win. The day was not without its share of whining and arguments, but on the whole, things were better.
This morning, we met A and his mom at the Barcroft Gym for their open play time. I had to get after Soren once or twice for being kind of a bully, stealing toys away from littler kids or playing recklessly (there were a lot of small kids there today, just ripe for the squishing if you didn't pay attention to where you were piloting your trike at full speed), but mostly he got to just run free for 90 minutes, liberated from the frequent hectoring he gets from me at home. Must really be a drag having Mom cramp your style all the time, telling you not to climb on things or reminding you to pick up your books so your little sister won't destroy them. Things seem to be more explosive between us these days, with Soren pushing and testing and becoming more and more defiant. A determined "No!" is becoming a more frequent response to requests Tom or I make of him (requests such as, "Put on your shoes, please; it's time to go." or "Please pick up your blocks and put them away in the drawer."). I've been reading The Happiest Toddler on the Block, which seems to have some good ideas for how to obtain better cooperation and basically just reduce tensions overall, but it's never easy to put those sorts of theories into practice without a lot of, well, practice. I'm working at it, but it's not coming very easily to me yet.
Eleri, at the gym, was trying very hard at one point to climb up on a scooter, so I stood her up on it and wheeled her around. She got the BIGGEST kick out of that, which was a little surprising, since she isn't generally much of a daredevil. She was mad when she had to stop and let A have a turn. Hehe. She was quick to get over it and move on to something else, though.
Anyway, I needed to get the apartment tidied up after we got home from the gym, so I kept the boy glued to the couch with three episodes of Word World (instead of his usual allotment of two). He was actually really good about shutting the TV off when his last episode was done and didn't whine or beg for more. Shortly after, we had to go out again to go to the store, and we fought over him having to sit in the shopping cart. I'll admit I didn't handle that battle of wills as well as I should have, but sometimes I simply do not have the patience to let him have his way when my way is more expedient. I can clearly see now, hours later, that I could have compromised with him, but it's tougher to see that in the moment, standing in the parking lot in the cold.
Home again, things were good for a while. Soren and Eleri played pretty well together until Tom got home from work, at which point Eleri - who had only gotten half an hour of sleep in the car - went into overtired meltdown mode. I got her down for a nap, and then Tom left for the gym.
Tensions between Soren and myself escalated again during dinner prep, culminating in a screaming fit over having to be put in time-out because he wouldn't stop kicking the closet doors. Said screaming fit, of fricking course, woke up Eleri. Because the only thing better than one screaming kid is two screaming kids. Sigh.
I do try to avoid pointless battles of will. I try very hard to make a specific point of never saying "No" just because. If it truly doesn't matter whether Soren eats another string cheese before dinner or gleefully shreds a piece of scratch paper, I'm not going to stop him. Lately it seems to be the small but mandatory things that are building up over the course of the day and making him feel like he NEVER gets his way about ANYTHING. I'm sorry, but yes, you must put on pants before we leave the house in 30 degree weather. No, pushing or kicking your sister is not permitted, ever. You begged for a peanut butter sandwich, after you'd already eaten an apple, a banana, and a yoghurt, so I relented and made you one, and no, you may not now walk away after eating one bite. (That last one is treading into the gray area of "necessary or not" but is, I think, part of the larger lesson that actions have consequences. Same goes for changing his mind 4 times about whether he would like to stay on the playground and keep playing or run off and go home.) And I'm certainly not perfect; I do catch myself making requests of him that are ultimately arbitrary. But I do try to remain aware of when I do it and limit those occurrences.
So, we will keep at it. I suspect, if this week is any indication, that things will get worse before they get better. But we'll find our balance eventually. I have to hope so, at any rate, or I'll lose my mind. ;)