And for once I was SuperMom

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Yell: The Rest of the Week

Well, that didn't last long.

Both Tuesday and Wednesday I used harsh words with my children.  Tuesday when she wouldn't get out of the water at the beach and her sister was melting down and was so past ready to leave, and Wednesday when she interrupted me in a task announcing that she had to go potty.

In thinking about both 'incidents' there were prior situations which put my stress level into the orange zone.  Right before we left the beach, Emma ran up, announced she had to go potty and promptly let loose on our beach blanket.  Something about your kid pissing all over your blanket makes your ability to think rationally leave.  Prior to the 'incident' this morning I had just discovered that all the hamburger buns that I had been planning on using for tonight's staff dinner (45 people) were covered in mold.

I use harsh words, when I'm under stress.

I have been thinking about this more and more, I don't know that the mothers that preceded us ever underwent a 'no yell challenge.'  I wonder if our grandparents would think we have lost our gourds.  When I shouted when she wouldn't get out of the water I think there was validity in that, she was purposely ignoring me and being disobedient.  I should get angry with her.  She should know that makes me angry.

Yelling at her when she announces that she has to go potty when I'm in the middle of a stressful situation is not her fault.  She did not cause her bladder to be full at the exact moment that I discovered the mold.  We would have been better served had I taken a deep breath, told her that I needed to finish my task, and then I would help her.  I might start instructing her to 'announce' her predicament in a more calm manner.  Running into the kitchen and shouting,
"I forgot to go potty!" does not produce a calm and seamless reaction.  I am still not really sure how long her fuse is, there's been a lot of rushing towards the back of stores in my life lately.

I have learned that if I tell her I need to finish something and then help her that saves me from going insane.  That's valid, constant interruption is tiresome and it teaches your children that they are not the center of the world.

I am not a fan of the whole potty situation.  When I was in junior high we watched a video in our life skills class that showed microscopic and time lapse photography.  One of the shots was of a toilet flushing, a spray  rising from the top of the toilet.  A spray of microscopic poo flecks.  A spray that is the exact same level of my sweet child's face.  Every time I take her in a public bathroom I see invisible paramecium of grossness crawling over every surface.  And she finds ultimate joy in flushing the I ALWAYS handle this in a graceful generous fashion...
"Emma...nonononono....don' let me....oh shoot...Carys don't toUCH THAT!!"  Throw in a few dives and body blocks in there (all whilst buckling my pants) and you pretty much have the picture.  I should start laying out my exact expectations for potty protocol, that might cut down on the sniggers I hear from the other patrons of public bathrooms.  We've been working on closing the toilet lid before we flush.

From this week I have realised that I need to be more mindful in the use of my voice.  There were a few more times where I calmly spoke to her and she stopped her own temper tantrum and a few times where I just snapped, 'Stop It!'  Because I sensed that it was a show to get what she wanted, rather than a rending of her delicate psyche.  She was able to stop her tantrum with both reactions.  I like myself better when I can calmly talk to her.  I walk away feeling guilt free, that I have handled the situation well, honoring her and myself.  I noticed when I snapped just because I was under stress that was not her fault.  That's not fair.  We certainly do treat the members of our families poorer than others.  I have learned it's fair to go back and apologize to her, she does seem to be old enough to understand.

There will be more thoughts on yelling, I think that's enough for one post.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Yell: Day One

We had a frustrating moment, and I lost it.  I yelled.
It happens, we all do it.  I've seen it a million times.  I've heard my friends complain about themselves, talk about they aren't doing the best job for their children.  How they are failing.
I've heard about a few moms that are doing 'no yelling' challenges on their blogs.  I've seen links bopping around Facebook, I've read a few blogs and cried while I read them.

But I balk, why stop yelling?  Isn't it good to show your children that they have made you angry?  Shouldn't they know that their actions can produce anger?  You don't want them to blithely go through life thinking that they get to do whatever they want and no one will ever be effected  by their positively maddening behavior.

But then again when was the last time I smeared ketchup on the table?  It's been awhile.  So some of these absolutely maddening behaviors they will stop doing in a short while.  What will I have done?  Yelled.  Made them feel bad for something that's not really their fault.  I mean, it is their fault, but I guess that's all part of the learning curve; learning that in this culture and household we do not smear ketchup on the table that has a slightly tricky finish on it.  Or any table for that matter.

Then there's the truth that I know from fighting with my husband, that once we start we stop listening to each other.  All you hear is the anger.  You can't hear the words, even though he may be right, there is so much anger that no one can back down.  All you convey is your anger.

So after that aforementioned frustrating moment my three year old daughter came up to me, tears running down red cheeks,
"You can't yell at your daughter, you don't yell at your daughter," head shaking.  I didn't feel like she was talking back to me, I felt the shattering effect of my off the cuff loss of anger.  I knelt and told her I was sorry, but I react like that when she is disobedient.

Maybe it's not her fault.  

A few days ago she came to the door during that all sacred 'rest time.'  There I was doing yoga, on the floor, knees towards the sky, head on the floor, in bridge position.  What did she need?  For me to tie her apron.  I yelled.  I didn't want to be disturbed, I wanted to be left alone for one single hour, so I could exercise.  Was that too much to ask?  She cried.  Now I've noticed that she keeps that apron tied and steps into it.

It's so much easier when I just tie that stinking apron for her.  I would like her to only come to the door when she has to go potty during her 'rest time,' but she doesn't.  Is it a worthy fight to pick?  No, not really.

Once upon a time in a land far away, when I only had one child, I used to think of creative ways to get her to  do what she needed to do.  I used to think of games or challenges.  I used to have calm words.  I would only save my big harsh scary words when she was doing something that put her in danger.  I have gotten sloppy.  I've taken to just yelling, 'STOP IT,' when she throws a temper tantrum.  She stops, but at what cost?  Two makes it hard.  Moving out of our apartment into transitional housing makes it hard.  Waiting and waiting and waiting to close on the house that we are buying makes it hard.  Living in a dorm with my kitchen in another building makes it hard.  Not knowing exactly where we will be living and when exactly we will be living there makes it hard.

None of that, not one single piece of that truth is her fault.

So today in church, I bent my head and prayed.  I don't want to make my child feel that she is a bad person or worthy of such harsh words because of my inability to react well.  I prayed that I could stop yelling for one week.  Just to see.  See if it makes a difference in her behavior.  See if it makes a difference in mine.

I was able to do it all day long.  I didn't raise my voice.  She threw a temper tantrum when it was time for her go into her room for 'rest time.'  She didn't want to go to sleep.  I never told her she had to, just play in her room by herself.  I let her lose it, and I calmly repeated myself over and over again.  I told her to listen to my words.  I told her she could just play.  She told me she wasn't tired.  The whole process took awhile, and she lost it, a lot.  I didn't though.  Maybe it's not about her behavior.  Maybe it's about me.  She is going to have temper tantrums, but why should I have them?

Then later when we were walking back and forth between our 'kitchen' and our 'apartment'  she lagged behind.  A habit that drives me crazy.  I have to wait, and stand, heavy baby on hip until she shows up at the door.  Truly an inconvenience.  For me and my tired arms.  So it's me dumping my expectations on her little head.  Instead I asked her if she could see if she could beat me to the door.  And she did, because she ran, and I walked.  We got there at the same time, I didn't have to wait and hold the door, my baby didn't grow heavy in my arm, giving me that stingy place on the inside of my elbow.

I went one day without yelling at my three year old daughter.  I did it.  How?  I don't know.  I'm sure that moment in the pew when I told God I was going to do this was when I got the help I needed.  I don't think I held it together without his help.
So thanks God, let's do six more days.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Model Magic

            For Christmas I bought my husband a nice sweater.  I bought it online as sneaking away sans children to purchase clothes secretly seems a nigh incomprehensible task.  As I scrolled through the pages of sweaters on I giggled to myself,
            ‘Ooooo, these boys are pretty,’ I thought.  At the perfectly mussed men, their bedroom eyes smoldering, trying to sell me that striped merino wool sweater.  I never have expected Scott to look like that.  In fact I don’t think that I would want him to, I think it would make me feel self conscious.  I’ve never liked pretty boys, I’ve always liked my men a little rough around the edges. 
            Then I clicked on over to my section of the website, I felt the balloon of my self esteem deflate again as I looked at each sweater, trying to decide if that cut of fabric would look good on me.  Of course it looks good on the tall thin model, but how would it hang on my shorter, and stockier frame.  As I felt that psst of self love leave me it struck me,
            ‘Maybe Scott doesn’t expect me to look like these models, just like I don’t expect him to,’ seems elementary, right?  Why do I expect myself to look like them?  How many have you felt that ‘psst’ and thought, ‘if only I could loose this many more pounds…if only I could figure out how to do my hair like that…if only…’  Psst.
            Reality check.
            He doesn’t seem to care.  He seems pretty happy with my body.  I seem pretty happy with his.  I don’t want a model, I want him.  With that sly grin that he gets when he says something sneaky funny.  With that soft look that he gets after we fight and we say we’re sorry.  With that passion that he has for helping people.  
           So why do I care?  Why the ‘psst?’  I have had two children, I’ve never been one to think that my value lies only in my appearance, why do have that pressure on my head?  Where did it come from?
I don’t watch much television.  We don’t watch that many movies.  I don’t read that many magazines.  The less ‘entertainment’ that I put in front of my face the better I feel about myself.  The more I spend in the ‘real’ world looking around at the women in my life the more pretty I feel.  None of us look like those Gap models, but I think that my friends are so beautiful.  I don’t compare them to people I see in magazines or movies, I don’t expect them to look perfectly coiffed.  Why would I expect that from myself?
           Because expectations of beauty that are placed on women are different than those that are placed on men.  We are told we are not valuable unless we look like that.  We are told that the ultimate in life is to achieve a some level of physical perfection.  An ideal that very few of us can fill is continuously trotted before us.  Isn't it so much easier to focus on my mind?  Can't I actually make myself smarter by learning.  But I can go so far with my appearance.  Can't I make myself a better person by being kinder, reaching out more.  Loving more?  Isn't that something worth doing?  Rather than spending time shopping and fretting over makeup?
           It’s also nice to take a moment and remind myself that those individuals have had a team of, yes, a team, of people coiffing them, whereas I only have myself and some limited knowledge of beauty styling tips gained from the little amount of Cosmo that I have read.
           Some days it’s just nice to take a break from my appearance, to not put on makeup, to pull my hair back, to throw on yoga pants and forget the rest. 
           Now if only I could figure out how to shop online without looking  at those ridiculously pretty models.


Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Compare and Contrast

“How do you keep her shoes on?” a friend asked me after a car trip.
“Huh, I haven’t taught her how to take them off yet,” I responded, congratulating myself for a parenting success I hadn’t known that I’d achieved. 
“Both of mine take them off,” she said, wrestling an offender back into his shoes.  I continued to feel smug about this fact for a year or two, and then, well, then, I had Carys.
I think Carys took Velcro shoes as a challenge.  In only moments one was off and left behind.  Only one, though, she has remained true to that pattern.  I did not realize how mellow my first child was until I had this one.  She is very physically creative. 
“Um, oh, um, you’re attached,” I hear a voice say, I turn and look over my shoulder.  Carys, well strapped and safe in the Ergobaby on my back, has grabbed the roll of plastic produce bags.  Since I kept walking unaware the bags had kept unrolling, a plastic strip of fishing line connecting me to the aisle of bananas behind me.  My shoulders sagged, I wanted to laugh, but I couldn’t wrap my mind around how to fix it.
“Here let me help you,” a man charged up and took the bags from Carys’ arm and re-rolled them back up.  Later I ran across him on my way to the check out line,
“That was a real Family Circus moment,” I smiled, remembering the cartoon.  Shuddering a bit at having my life compared to a Saturday morning comic. 
Every now and again a friend will coo about how similar my children look, I always find it funny because they have been such different babies.  They are completely different people in my mind.  But then I’ll turn around and glance at them and see the same bloomed rose bud expression on their faces when they’ve fallen asleep in their car seats. 
Yesterday when I asked Emma who she wanted to pray for before her nap time she asked to pray for God and her heart.  That night when I asked her who she wanted to pray for before her bed time she asked to pray for the baby’s heart and God.  I have prayed for their relationship.  Have prayed that they would be the best of friends, that they would love each other throughout their lives and be the closest of confidantes.
A friend in Bible Study spoke about how she was constantly compared to her sister, that both made big choices in their life to avoid appearing like their sister.  With cracking voice she said that to this day her mother still makes comparisons.  I sat in silence, fearing the worst.  We compare our girls all the time.  Carys can’t know yet, but Emma is old enough to hear.  Emma was such a calm and serene one year old, and Carys is turning into a complete handful.  One might see one as ‘bad’ and the other as ‘good.’  I don’t.  I love that Emma will sit and calmly color and read books for hours.  I love that Carys is a handful, I can’t wait to see what it will turn into as she grows.  Will they know that?  Will they know that I love their sameness?  Will they know that I love their differences?

Do we need to stop?  It’s so easy to look and compare.  To laugh at myself because I thought I was such a good parent, and really it was just her.  To look at our children and love, with eyes glancing back and forth, bouncing between wonder and wonder.  Is it bad to compare, can it only come to feelings of resentment?  Can it be celebrated and done in a way that makes each child feel unique and bonded to the other one?  What do you think?