Monday, Oct 20 2008
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I wrote a long blog entry in my head last night as I was laying in bed, reflecting on my evening.
It was helpful to write it out in my head, because it helped me organize my thoughts – even if the actual entry itself isn’t nearly as eloquent. I swear I should carry around a Dictaphone to record things I think of in spots where I can’t write it down.
The main thing I discovered while mentally blogging was that my worst moments as a mother generally (80% of the time) have these three traits in common:
-Its evening, and I’m alone at the house with both kids (ie there isn’t man-on-man coverage as Missy says)
-Both kids are needing something at the same time (ie competing pulls on my attention)
-There is some type of “deadline” (ie bedtime for Will, generally).
While I like the idea that a parent should pick their battles, I also find that very hard in real life situations because I also believe strongly in consistency in parenting. If a person is choosing her battles, that means that there are some things being allowed to slip, which means that consistency is compromised. Example: If I’m doing battle with Will over brushing his teeth – I face the decision: “Is this a worthwhile thing to battle over?” and, yes, I think it is, because if you fail to teach your child basic hygiene and good oral health habits, I do think you’ve been derelict in your duties as a parent. On the other hand, the emotional repercussions of The Battle are no good, either.
In some ways, I feel that Will is at an especially challenging stage. He’s old enough to be defiant and stubborn, but he’s not quite old enough to use the full blown Love and Logic techniques for over-3’s. There are only so many timeouts/quiet times I can impose on him before either a) I lose my mind, or b) he understands that if he gets a timeout, its actually an effective delay tactic which pushes back his bedtime.
And the above is just a one example – the situation arises in a variety of settings over a variety is issues.
As I reflected on all of this last night, I think I determined a few things. One – the problem is made much worse by the looming deadlines (as I said, generally, Will’s bedtime). I feel its really important to get him into bed at the same time every night both for his sake and mine. For him – going to bed at the same time will establish routines for the rest of his childhood, it will set up him to wake up at a consistent time, and nap at a consistent time – all of which are key to a calm/predicable household and routine.
So, I asked myself if I feel like I don’t have enough “alone time” and if so, is that why I feel so pressured to get him in bed? Probably – I look forward to the hour between 9 and 10 to read and eat Chex Mix by myself a lot. I actually get “alone time” at other points in the day (both during the week and at home on the weekends), but for some reason, the evening alone time is the most important to me. So, I probably feel threatened when it seems like Will’s evening routine isn’t going accordingly to schedule.
I suppose the answer is to start it earlier, but here’s the probably with that: I don’t want to brush his teeth too early incase he wants a snack later on, and I don’t want to put him in his jimmies too early because I want him to get a chance to be on the potty as close to bedtime as possible. And those seem to be the two areas of struggle.
I’m sure Will feeds off of my lack of serenity in those situations. And I know that when I get beyond a level where I can control myself, that its not a good situation. I end up feeling frustrated with Ellen when she hasn’t done anything wrong (and even if she had, she’s a baby, for goodness sakes), and angry at Steve for not being there, which when I’m “sane” is completely NOT how I feel – I want Steve to get out of the house and see friends. I honestly do.
I googled “irritation disorder” yesterday evening and couldn’t find a specific diagnosis, but I think that probably intense irritation is a relative of anger. And I’ve often thought I need some anger management help. The question is do I seek it elsewhere, or try to brainstorm solutions to the situations that tend to send me over the edge.
In the long run, the number of times I’m alone with the kids is minimal. So, technically, if I gave up on the tooth brushing battle in those situations, Will would still be getting his teeth brushed “correctly” 90% of the time. And maybe if I gave us both mental permissions to be “easy going” about those items on those rare occasions, he will back off of his battle stance, too, and we’ll be able to get them done any way.
I don’t want my children afraid of my temper. I really don’t. I don’t want them to model my bad behavior. In the long run, that’s probably more important that clean teeth or an empty bladder. I need to remember that. I do, however, want a method of getting cooperation out of my children for necessary tasks that is sustainable for all of us.
The other major situation where I find myself escalating to intense irritation/anger is when the 4 of us do something outside the house, as a family, and it just seems to be one problem after the other. I get so frustrated because I am convinced that it should be easier to be together as a family. Because, if its so hard, then I’m led to the conclusion that there is something fundamentally flawed with our family unit, and with Steve and I in particular. Steve and I have talked about this a bit. If I’m understanding him right, his solutions seems to be to avoid those types of activities “for now”.
My question then is – what if, when the kids are older, its no easier? Do we spend our lives doing things separately? Is that bad? I don’t know but I sense it isn’t good, per se. I know that part of the tension is that Steve and I have a hard time with the power sharing arrangement we are in as it relates to parenting – both by personality and by occupational choice. Its one of the down sides to the way of life we’ve chosen. And I don’t quite know where to go from here. There doesn’t seem to be a good answer.
Patience? Wait it out? Try to make the one on one time that we have with each other and with the kids as good as possible?
I keep going back to the unhelpful statement: “It would be easier if we had family in town.” There’s no chance of that, now or later, so it doesn’t do any good to think about it.
Regardless, I need to keep the lines of communication open between Steve and I because we have a tendency to misunderstand each other’s point of view or motivations. And we are getting better at talking things out – I do appreciate that. But it almost seems that the better we get at it, the harder the things we have to talk about get. As if we can’t catch a break, and just enjoy the “fruit” of our lessons learned.