I guess I got too full of myself after Bess was raving about what a fun mom I am. (Okay, maybe not raving, but close enough.) You can always count on your children to keep you humble, or at least I can.
The other night I was putting three year old Harry to bed, and he told me he did not want me to lay with him that night. “I don’t like you, Mommy,” he told me. “You yell too much.”
I guess I am a little heavy on the yelling lately. I can get a little loud when I am frustrated, and lately I spend a lot of time being frustrated. As I’ve written about before, parenting Bess is just a long-term project in frustration tolerance for me – in many ways, I love how creative and free-spirited and in touch with herself she is, but it is just those things that make her such a challenge for me. And Harry – or as he is known in our house these days, “The Little General” – let’s just say that it turns out that “predictable” in a three-month old = “inflexible” in a three-year old.
Last Friday we were having a play date with his friend Claire (pronounced “Cway-uh”), and we all decided to go for a bike ride in the neighborhood across the street. Harry, in full LG style, insisted that he had to lead the way because he knew where we were going, and Claire was kind enough to oblige since she was, after all, new to the area. But once we got there (there being a cul-de-sac where they could wheel around safely) she wanted her turn at the helm, and rightly so. She had exhibited extraordinary patience to that point, and it was her turn. We engaged in United Nations-level negotiations and came up with an acceptable compromise: they would take turns. Seems reasonable, right?
WRONG!!! It worked for a bit, but then Harry decided not only to stop his own forward progress, but to block Claire as well. After a bit of reasoned and gentle prodding yielding dismal results, I picked him up and carried him home while he had an epic tantrum, the proportions of which have never been seen in my offspring before. Harry actually drew blood while clawing at my face. Five days later, I still haven’t recovered. Luckily, Claire’s mom is the most laid-back person on the planet, otherwise I’m sure we would never see them again.
I consider myself a practitioner of Attachment Parenting, and I very much believe in its philosophy. Yet I’m finding myself at a bit of a loss these days. I’ve read (and said) that if you wouldn’t do a particular thing to an adult, then you shouldn’t do it to your child either – that’s sort of the heart of AP as I understand it. But here’s the thing: no adult would ever interrupt me while I was in the middle of an important phone conversation to ask me fifteen times in thirty seconds if they could have a piece of candy. If they did, I wouldn’t spend too much time with them. My daughter, however, does this repeatedly every day, and it’s not like I can just blow her off and stop returning her calls. For better or for worse, we are in this together for the long haul.
Yes, we teach children to behave respectfully by modeling respectful behavior. But they are still kids, and there is only so much this mama can take! While they are learning to invoke the Golden Rule sometimes the frustration gets the better of me and, yes, I blow my top a bit. When I’m exhausted and I’ve asked one child or the other to get into the bathtub forty-nine times and have been completely ignored, it seems to me that the logical next step is to repeat myself louder, because surely they just didn’t hear. If that’s yelling, the I am guilty as charged. I’m sorry you don’t like me, Harry, but if you had done what I asked one of the many, many, many times I asked, then I wouldn’t have to yell.