As much as I love those kids–and I do, with a force that often surprises me–they drive me from sane to bat shit nuts with an astonishing speed and regularity. Sometimes it’s my fault. My impatience and inability to deal with repetitive annoyances (“mom, mom, mOM, mooommmm-MMMMYYY” or CFL bulbs that hum) are two of my greatest character flaws. This week. However, I own those negative traits, they are me and I try to modify my own behavior as much as possible. I. Try.
But most of the time it’s not my fault at all. The swift loss of sanity is from being home with a 4-year old. And an Elliot. I’ve differentiated because I’ve never had a 4-year old before, but I’ve had a 2-year old. Elliot does not fit nicely into my categorized parenting-a-2-year-old knowledge base. Surprise, surprise. The bipolar-esque nature of life with a 4-year old defines “normal” for a lot of moms I know. More’s the pity.
Knowing the 4-year old difficulties are normal doesn’t make it any easier for me to deal with. Which is how I went from a delightful fiction novel by Ken Follet to reading parenting theory books. I like DIY projects and I see the occasional theory parenting book (at least any that make my first cut) as a method for someone who doesn’t have a child development degree to have a little knowledge. But I will cut and run at the first hint of dogmatic, “you must do this”.
The first books, Touchpoints 3 -6 by Dr. Brazelton made me fist-bump the ceiling. A lot. He navigates the 4 main personality types as each one travels through each age/developmental milestone. It’s common sense applied child development theory. I like this. It makes me happy.
The other one? The Changing you Child’s Behavior by Changing Yours book. Meh, it didn’t stand a chance, honestly, because it came from the library highlighted. I won’t even dog-ear library books and this schmuck highlighted entire passages. Dear Library Patron Schmuck–your first parenting lesson is to respect property that is not yours.
But then the book told me to “always remember that I am a rational adult”. Well, duh. I know that…rationally. However, rational reactions are directly correlated to one being dealt with rationally. I don’t want to be told that my own adult-level tantrums are the root of all of my Small People parenting challenges. Unlike the Small People, my outbursts are often slow to ignite. It usually takes all day. Some days it takes 30 minutes. Totally depends on how much coffee I’ve had before the bullshit starts. Days that I am assaulted (yes, assaulted) before I can travel the 20 feet from my bed to the kitchen are generally not slow-ignition days.
I’m not a moron, I recognize the signs my Small People’s brains are short-circuiting. That’s why I try and control the possibility from the get-go. Sometimes my time-control power is obliterated by Small People free will (damn you, free will). No matter how badly I want them to choose reward over consequence, one– or on the bad days, both– often disagree. Telling me to just remember I’m the rational adult when I have a screaming child hanging off each leg is seriously unhelpful.
It’s like telling me to remember that eating a balanced diet while maintaining a healthy weight through exercise and not smoking* is the answer to good health and longevity. Oh, wait. Damn it.
Rational adult. Okay, fine. My problem with that theory is the underlying suggestion that succumbing to those moments of irrationality somehow makes me less of an overall adult. Adults are still human–only the most repressed and/or medicated rigidly maintain their self control.
So- poo on you. I couldn’t have finished it thanks to the turquoise highlighting schmuck, but I wouldn’t have anyway. Dr. B advises using our own common sense and cumulative lifetime knowledge as the tools to soothe a hostile encounter. As an adult, I’ve learned how to maintain self control in certain situations. I’ve smiled brightly while a pompous asshole loudly corrected my use of Mister over Doctor at a meeting. In front of the whole room. Which, incidentally, contained two medical doctors. Just saying. If I can do it for stuff like that, perhaps I can increase the times I do can maintain it with my kids. As soon as they start paying me.
So, thank you Dr. B for giving me things I can do. Absolutely, I can hindsight- and self- examine. It’s a hobby of mine, actually. Certainly I can work to say the words differently — I’ll even write some of your phraseology down and post it on the door for my reference.
What I cannot do is promise to never, ever get angry with one of my children. I know I can’t expect them to be Small People-sized adults right now, but I am responsible for the future adults. My version of that future does not include unemployed basement dwellers. Actually, it does– which is a large motivator in some of my seemingly-harsher discipline choices.
Yes, I need to do better at consistently maintaining my self-control and temper– and I’m so much better than I used to be, some credit to me, please. But even when I’m technically “failing” those failures are teaching important life lessons to the Small People. One, that no one is perfect. And two, that behaving like a dick will result in people reacting to you angrily. Banging the hammer on your wall right after being told that I had an awful headache would be a relevant example of dickish behavior.
There you have it. Scattermom’s justification for “Temper Loss Resulting from Constant Annoyance Provides Demonstrative Example of Human Society Participation”. You’re welcome.
*Well, shit. I wrote this back in April and never mentioned (cough-cough/shuffe-shuffle) how I didn’t actually quit. I guess that makes it a double shameful hypocrisy? I am one full day of not smoking. It’s because of the Great American Smoke Out. Off by a day, because I don’t like to just do what everyone else is doing. That’s how I started smoking in the first place.