Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Parenting woes & related family baggage

Had another hair-pullingly annoying naptime experience with Miss Thing today. She was playing with the toys I told her she could hold while she went to sleep, so I took them away. She got off the bed to retrieve them. I told her to get back up on the bed. She just crouched by the toys and looked at me. She often does not listen to me lately, and I don't know if it's because I've been too lax with her in the past and now that is coming back to bite me in the butt, or simply because she is 2 1/2 and is developmentally required to test my limits. (By the way, someone recently told me that the third year is worse - if that's true, I quit!)

Anyway... I know it was dumb to ever allow toys into bed in the first place, but for a very long time Miss Thing would truly just hold her favorite thing (whatever that happened to be each night at bedtime) until she fell asleep. Now, of course, she plays with said thing(s). So today I finally instituted the "no toys" rule.

Every time I come to a situation like this where I have to make a decision that I know will lead to screaming and crying, I feel as if I've done something wrong to bring this on, and I'm not sure what the next step should be. Then I think about how one of the parenting books we have says that the more time you spend with your child, the more quickly and easily you know what to do in discipline-necessary situations. You know what is right for your child better than anyone because you are the one who is there all the time. Well, let me tell you, I am with my child almost literally 24x7x365, and I have some pretty big struggles sometimes trying to figure out what is the right thing to do.

Then that gets me to thinking, "why is this so hard for me?" The reason is that I don't want to raise her exactly how I was raised. Yes, my parents did the best they could, and yes, we all turned out pretty well, and although we do have problems I'm certainly not going to blame those on Mom and Dad and what they did or didn't do. My siblings and I are grown now and it is our responsibility to take what we've been given and do what we can with it to create our own ways of being. That said, of course I also know that no matter what I do, no matter how mindful I am of how I raise my children, I am fully aware that at some point they will blame their problems on me and their Dad and what we did or didn't do while raising them.

Anyway - so I don't feel like I have a good example to follow, especially in regards to discipline, and therefore I have to make these decisions on the fly and just hope that they're not going to ruin my daughter somewhere down the line. I am constantly wondering if something I just did or said in anger is going to make her into a bitchy, door-slamming teenager (although I'm fairly certain that raging teenage hormones alone may be more responsible for that behavior when it does happen).

Meanwhile, although we did have a good visit with Grandma over the weekend, I was also treated to pretty much a running commentary of things I'm doing wrong, or things that I should be doing as a mother.

"She doesn't eat much; she is drawn to sweets."
Okay, what should I do, put a feeding tube down her throat to make her eat more? Yes, she is drawn to sweet things, but we're talking about fresh fruit and stuff I bake myself with unrefined sugar. She cannot/will not eat a whole cookie made with refined sugar. She will not eat more than a few bites of ice cream at once. We are not talking about a junkfood junkie here. And as for how much she eats, she seems to be getting what she needs. At her two-year appointment she still came out in the 75th percentile for height and weight. All of her blood work showed that she was very healthy. Despite being a vegetarian. Hah.

"You need to be firmer with her about potty training."
Shall I tie the potty to her butt? Everything I'm reading says that forcing your child to potty train makes it into a negative thing (DUH) which is miserable for everyone involved, and that forcing adds time to the learning process.

"You should get her outside more."
Well, okay, that one is definitely true.

Anyway, you get the idea... and while my siblings and I were purportedly all potty trained by the age of 1 1/2, I guarantee you that we only went along with it out of fear. We were raised on fear. I am not going to do that to my child. I would rather explain things to her in detail so she actually knows what I'm talking about and why I want her to do things. I would rather listen to her so I know what her reasons are for not wanting to comply. Then we can actually talk about these things and she can have an actual reasoning knowledge of why we do things the way we do, rather than live by, "because I said so."

And I have been rewarded in my efforts; after one of these conversations, maybe hours, maybe days, even weeks or months - she will explain to me (or her daddy, or whoever she happens to be talking to) what the proper course of action is and why. One of the more amusing admonishments to have been repeated: "I shouldn't lie on my kitties and squish them because I am heavier than they are and it can hurt them," etc.

Maybe every parent has these worries, that what they do or say to their child may be the wrong thing. And it probably takes pretty consistent wrong-thing doing to actually make a dent in the child's personality. But that doesn't quiet the questioning voices; doesn't quell the concerns.

Lest I be misunderstood - which I'm sure I will be anyway, but for clarification I'd just like to say - I am not having angst over instituting the "no toys in the bedroom" rule. That should have been the rule from the start. The angst is over having let her have toys in there for a long time in the first place, since to begin with I knew that wasn't a good idea, and also me getting angry when she won't nap and getting snippy, sometimes storming out of the room, that kind of thing.

1 comment:

Lori said...

I have so many of the same thoughts about raising my kids. One book I really enjoed to help me evaluate what the good and bads, causes and effects, etc is that "Whats going on in there" book I have linked on my blog. It talks about how their mind develops, what affects their growth, etc. It's a good read... definitely not an answer to everything but it helps to explain a lot.