Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Day 3: Teaching Each Other, Teaching Ourselves

I will choose to find a positive perspective under even the most negative circumstances.
I was pissed. The house was a mess, Max was struggling to fall asleep, it was already 1:30pm (waaaaay too late to just be starting nap time), and I had a to-do list hanging over my head that I knew wasn't going to be touched. I was experience internal chaos, and it pissed me off. I could tell that Jack was picking up on it as I was helping him into his comfy pants for his nap (because he picks up on everything), so I said, "Jackson, I'm feeling really really frustrated right now." He looked at me thoughtfully, raised his hand to touch me, and in the sweetest voice you've ever heard half-whispered, "Calm. Calm. Calm. Calm." as he gently stroked my hair. Just like that, the chaos was replaced by utter contentment and peace. And that change in my energy was met with, "Mommy feels better now."

My inability to cope with life at that moment gave Jackson an opportunity to practice a really valuable skill. He got to see that, at only two years old, he is able to make a big difference in his world and mine. I got to see that when I model these tools to him it matters, really matters. It was a great reminder that, even though I sometimes model negative reactions, it does not erase all the positive things I give him.

I will choose acceptance over resistance.
Jackson ran away from me at the grocery store. This has never happened before because he's always been in the cart. But today we took the fancy cart with the car on front for him to drive. The car he can get in and out of at will. I did my best to assume things would go well, but if I'm honest, I pictured him having a tough time staying in the whole time since we had a pretty long list. So when we rounded the corner past Mr. Cow, he jumped out, looked at me with sheer glee, and ran.

I had a choice to make. I could be the mom running down the aisle after him yelling, but Max was in the sling and Jack would probably out run me. I could be the mom who walks away to scare him into coming back, which would scar my sensitive little boy for life. Or I could be the mom who waits patiently until he's ready to come back on his own, which makes me feel "permissive" even though I know better.

So I stood there and waited with a smile on my face. I took in the sweet laughter. I watched him run to the end of the aisle and gaze into the ice cream freezer to see the pretty colors, having no idea he was looking at mommy's nemesis. I watched him turn to see if I was reacting, then sit down with a huge smile on his face and talk to himself happily. Then I watched the smile disappear as he looked to his right at what I can only imagine to be a rather large man who was smiling at him just out of my line of sight. Then I heard that wonderful word, "Mommy!" He said it again as he ran back to me, much faster than he had run away.

If I had resisted this behavior, I would have cheated him out of that valuable lesson he learned all on his own. They say what we resist persists, and indeed, if I had cheated him out of that lesson, I dare say running the aisles would become our grocery store routine. He needed freedom and room to figure out that the behavior I wanted to see in him, staying in the car with me, was also the behavior that made him feel safe and happy. I'm so proud that I gave that to him this time, because there are so many times I don't. I guess we both learned a lesson.

I will choose to focus on the things I value about my children, not the things that drive 
me nuts.
Jackson keeps putting his hand, food, utensils, and anything else he can reach, in his water glass at meal time. I can't stand it. Cups are for drinking and any other creative use of them just isn't right. Oh, wait. Did I say creative? That's right. He's using his imagination, exploring his world, finding out how things work. Duh, Mom. Get over it!

I will choose to extend the same grace, love and forgiveness to myself that I try to lavish on my husband and children each day.
Jackson has a great routine. He knows what to expect in his day and roughly when and how, and it gives him security so he can learn and grow. Max is not so lucky. I feel like I'm cheating him out of this because our life doesn't allow for three consistent naps and a consistent bed time. In fact, life isn't even allowing for any kind of sleeping routine like reading before he goes down, because the window to get him down is so small we just have to get to it. But he's happy, he's learning, and he's growing. It's not a coincidence. It's because of all the other constants - breastfeeding, bedsharing, ECing, interacting - that provide security just the same. I can let myself off the hook for this one. Someday when we aren't juggling as many naps, we will start a routine. It's never too late. And he won't be illiterate if I don't read to him four times a day before he sleeps.


  1. Oh, have I been the one whose kid runs away. You've seen it. I think you managed to realize that if they want to run away that much it is probably important that they get that experience. I think it's amazing that you know him so well that you could see he would come back to you.

    I have tried all of those tactics, but my son does not come back to me. Running is the worst option. Trailing behind him a distance that is just far enough seems to be the best option for us. But, I do know my son well enough to not expect much more. We walk a tightrope of how much freedom is safe. But I see the other side of it, too. The desire for independence outside is matched by the desire for independence when we are home, as well. He is mature and very capable of handling himself. I have helped him have that confidence and it is with that confidence that he feels he can run free.

    It only drives me crazy because of social constructs that say that children shouldn't run around and latent fears of things that are very unlikely happening. I am finding it is better for me to work on these things within myself than to accumulate frustration and feelings of defeat.

    And, you know, with talking through the plan of what we are doing he has grown to be able to control those desires more.

    As for routine. We started with no routine with Truman. I suppose you could say I am the opposite of a control freak. Very much a go-with-the-flow person. But I am finding peace in schedules now. I think Max and any second child (or later) gets a different experience. But it is not better or worse. It is simply different. While he may not get the schedule Jackson had, he gets the benefit of all you've learned (and the confidence you have gained) since becoming a parent.

  2. Letting go of what people think is really the crux of it all, isn't it? If we could block that all out and do only what we knew was right for our children - running amok and all - I think life would be much simpler! I definitely had those thoughts while I was waiting for him. What are people going to think when I don't go after him...that I just don't care, that I don't set any boundaries for him, that he runs the show, that he's a "bad" kid? All those things boil down to: Are people going to think I'm a bad mom? As you pointed out, you experience this scenario much more frequently with Truman, and I think you do a fantastic job of prioritizing his need for freedom and independence over the approval of passers by. It's no small feat! External validation feels good, but not half as good as meeting your child's deepest needs of being known and accepted.

  3. I so love the glass of water thing. My son (5 yo)usually put his fingers in his glass and it drives me nuts. I will turn a blind eye on it from now on !

  4. I hate to say it, Murielle, but I feel a little better knowing someone else is suffering through it with me ;-)