Saturday, October 29, 2011

The Other Side

This is about the other side of parenting. The side that makes me want to pull my hair out. The side that leads me to dislike myself. To ask, how can someone I love and adore so deeply leave me so frustrated? So unsure? So certain I'm doing it wrong but without any idea how to get it right.
Our son is 3. Almost 40 months, to be more precise. At this point, he rarely listens to me without multiple requests, threats, and/or promises.
I don't want to use threats or promises (i.e. bribes). I want him to be motivated, to be disciplined, to be cooperative. I don't want him to be browbeaten. I don't even want him, in the long run, to be subordinate, which may be part of my problem. He has mastered insubordinate.
Basically, I want him to do what I want him to do, without being forced to do so. That is so not happening, except for the rare occasions when what I want happens to coincide with what he wants.
I try to motivate him to want what I want, but really, at three, is he likely to want to brush his teeth? I don't even want to brush my teeth. I do, usually, because I understand the consequences of not brushing my teeth. So I inform him of the consequences of not brushing his teeth, I try to make it fun and enjoyable, I give him as much latitude as possible to do it himself without being completely ineffective, and I praise him whenever reasonably possible.
And yet we struggle over tooth-brushing and countless other opportunities for resistance.
I threaten time-outs, and I impose them when the threat (or warning, I suppose) doesn't produce the desired result.
I don't want my three-year-old to walk all over me, but I don't want to crush his spirit either. I seem to be skidding back and forth across this parenting highway.
I know that there are methods and rules that I could be following, but I'm reluctant to make J behave for all the wrong reasons. I'm afraid that he'll end up like his mom -- aiming to please, afraid to say no, lacking confidence, and seeking reassurance.
I remind myself that parenting didn't seem like such a struggle just a few short weeks ago. And the past few weeks I have been heavily occupied with other things. We also spent three nights last week bunking at my in-laws' place, which probably didn't do much for my parenting authority, among other things. In that light, he's probably craving good times with me as much as I am craving good times with him.
We can get back on track.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

J's latest

Our little boy is growing in leaps and bounds.
His legs grew this summer and all his 2T pants were "suddenly" too short this fall. Shoes and skates too.
More excitingly, his mind is having a growth spurt.
Suddenly he can do all sorts of things he's been working on for the past year or so.
He can count! He's been working on counting to ten, with help and many mistakes, for about a year I think. Suddenly he's consistently and accurately counting to ten and beyond.
He can count objects on a page accurately. For a long time he threw in an extra object. Now he's got it. Last night he missed his place counting seven skinny chilly peppers, recognized it, accounted for it, and resumed counting accurately.
We are working on taking away -- if I have four left and I eat one then I have one left.
He recognizes his "hockey number" (that's seven) everywhere. Seven is J's hockey number because, "it looks like a hockey stick." (God help us if seven is taken when J starts to play organized sports.)
We are working on recognizing more number symbols.
J now knows that when we get ready for bed his hockey number is on the clock, and when the hockey number is gone it's past his bed time. I think this is helping him learn to understand clock time. We also talk about the fact that sometimes seven appears in the last digit, representing minutes, and that the number of minutes increases until the next hour, when the minutes start over.
J now sings the alphabet accurately.
None of this may be impressive for a boy his age (he's 39 months old). I stopped reading the What to Expect series some time before his first birthday so I lost track of the milestones a long time ago. His same-age friend reportedly sang the alphabet in french and English a long, long time ago. But I'm excited that J can sing the alphabet accurately now because he's been working on it for a long time and now he can do it all the way to the end.
He knows that his parents' names start with K and his name starts with J. He learned to recognize G and O around his second birthday, when we still read Goodnight Moon every single evening. We eventually dropped Goodnight Moon from the nightly selection, and stopped paying attention to G and O too, but now we're working on all the letters. I should go back to G and O and see if he still knows those ones. Probably.
He's progressing in other areas too.
Last night he ate an entire piece of fish using a fork and knife. He cut it all up for himself, with help just once. At one point a piece of fish went shooting across the table, and he didn't get upset about it.
He's a perfectionist, and that's a challenge for him, but I'm  reassuring him that it's okay, and that the important thing is that he keeps trying.
Yesterday evening he pulled out a big puzzle that we haven't looked at in months. He received this around his second birthday and we did it together at that time. Suddenly, he understands edges. I helped him a little bit at the beginning, coaxing him to try spinning it around, or, "how about over here?" Suddenly he was on a roll and he completed the second half of the puzzle independently. He was  totally engaged and having fun as he considered and fit each piece into place.
He had his first skating lesson and it was a complete success. He enjoyed it. Right there, it was a success in my books. He also did well. Not the very best in the class -- one boy skated to the boards hands-free, coached by his figure-skating mom -- but he did very well. Getting up, getting down, pushing a pylon, skating holding his dad's hand, and smiling. I'm so happy for him and grateful for his teacher and his father, my husband.
Suddenly he is drawing intentional and recognizable objects. A whole series of pumpkins, with stems, which he cut out very carefully and methodically. He has such high standards. A whale in chalk on the patio.
J's manners are really coming along. Lots of please, thank you, and you're welcome. We are working on, "I forgive you," but he tends to say both parts: "I'm sorry mom; I forgive you." Or, "I forgive you too, Mom," which is kind of sweet.
He calls me variously Mom, Mum, My mother (I'm not a fan of that one), Mumma, and Momma (Mama). Daddy is of course Daddy and sometimes Dad. Nana, Papa, and Grandpa or "Grampa".
He refers frequently to our late cat Riley, but that's a whole other post. He knows that Riley and Oma are in heaven. Twice he has asked, and this is heartbreaking, "When does Heaven close?" In other words, when are they coming home from Heaven?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Rainbow Connection

Can't sleep. And can't resist a link to the always-engaging and often inspiring Mrs. Hall and the fabulous audiovisual clip she has posted here. Thank you Mrs. Hall, Mr. Henson, Ms. Harry, and Paul Williams and Kenneth Ascher who wrote the song. I'm going to listen to Debbie and Kermit sing it one more time and then I think I'll be able to sleep.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Yet more gratitude

How long can I write daily gratitude lists? And why? I already know I'm grateful for the little moments. I write these lists as fast as I can, so they're totally bare bones. But here goes.
  1. My friend suggested that we take our kids to a farm, and we did. I would have just suggested that we meet at the playground, but the farm was perfect. It was a fabulous hot, sunny fall day. The kids were delighted and delightful. We patted bunnies and lambs. We climbed a hay-bale pyramid, twice. We got lost in a corn maze. We ate ice cream, then discovered it was 4:59 p.m., and went back for chicken fingers. Yes, just after the ice cream. J ate more than ever. It was a good day. It was a good day for friendship. 
  2. Interesting bloggers. I read some interesting posts by honest writers The Kitchen MagpieAngry Mother, and Mrs. Hall. I should have been doing something more productive, I think. There are lots of things I should have been doing. But this was interesting. They are interesting. Honest writing is thought-provoking and restorative. 
  3. My cousin L, who keeps reaching out to me and telling it like it is. I have never known anyone to say so much in so few words.