Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The secret to "success"

Did you ever have a day (or week or month or year) when you believe that, as a parent, you must be doing everything wrong? (If your answer is no, don't tell me. I'm not so sure I can be your friend anymore.) You do a mental check to be sure that you've at least taken your vitamins, eaten something and had a caffeinated beverage. And yet with all the basics checked off, you're still behaving like a frustrated beaver who's just encountered one too many fenced up trees.

Oh, wait a minute. I know what it is. It's these damn kids. Yep, that's what it is. It can't possibly have anything to do with me.

It can't be that I've had so little sleep in the past four years that I'm practically sleep walking.

It can't be that I expect my kids to have more than 10 good minutes in a row. And by good minutes, I mean, time during which no one cries, begs for a snack, throws said snack on the floor, hits a sibling, pees their pants, clears a countertop or table or uses a toy for an unapproved use (namely hitting a sibling).

It can't be that I expect boychild (all of 3.5 years old) to have the hang of pooping in the toilet nearly a year after he was first introduced to the concept.

It can't be that I expect girlchild (all of 18 months old) to leave my desk and computer alone just because mommy said so.

Yep, I'm feeling this way because my kids are just rotten. And, of course, I'm a rotten mommy for saying so. There, I said it. And, if you're honest at least with yourself, you'll admit to thinking the same thing every once in a while.

Hrumph. Now that that's out of my system, I can be more reasonable.

One of the drawbacks of working in the professional world for years before having children is that your standards for success are rather high. These days, if the kids are still alive and the house has not burned down by day's end, we've had a successful day. It's a big bonus if there are no fresh bruises on Fiona and Danny hasn't spent most of the day in time out.

I've been held to high standards and met them. I've held others to high standards and ensured they met them with more patience than I currently exhibit with my own children. I'm used to seeing results pretty close to immediately. I hire a vendor, they do the job the way I ask. I ask a reporter to make some changes, we have a discussion that (usually) doesn't include whining or defiance; there are some compromises and the article is properly finessed. My assistants always did what was asked in a reasonable amount of time. Both assistants I've had the pleasure of working with understood my requests easily. They never forgot the task at hand on the way to the copy machine and wound up in the break room. Not once.

You can see why my  parenting approach sometimes veers into my-way-or-the-highway territory. Some days I flog myself mercilessly over the defiant, willful, borderline (I'm being very generous here, don't you think?) obnoxious behavior of my children. It must be my fault, right? After all, I am in charge here.

That said, the past few weeks have been wildly successful. Loud, messy and irritating, yes; but still rather successful by my revised definition.. Danny hasn't peed his pants much and has actually been making unprompted trips to the potty. We only started potty training last July, so this is good, right? He did poop his pants at the park this week, but, really, who hasn't pooped their pants at the park a few times in their life?

Danny has been spending a lot of time in time out lately. I know that doesn't sound very successful, but stay with me here. One night, he pushed his sister twice when she made a grab for his toys. Each time he landed in the TO chair (which also doubles as the "shoe on" chair. Amazingly, my kids don't think of getting shoes on as punishment.). The next time Fiona made a play for his toy, he yelled at her "I'm having a turn." He didn't even make a threatening gesture this time. This is progress. Of course, I realize we will repeat this same scene every day for the next few years.

Fiona has actually been listening and doing as she's told sometimes. One night I told her to put the toy groceries back in the cart (the cart that will soon be living at Nana's house). And SHE DID. She even gave Danny back the toy she stole when I told her to. She even responded appropriately to praise. That is, she didn't repeat the unwanted behavior to gain the praise.

Accepting the one step forward, two or a hundred steps back dance as the new definition of success is progress on my part.

I was once told by a very dear woman that an expectation is a premeditated resentment. In fact, she felt it was such an important statement that she wrote it on a piece of paper and slipped it across the table to me, probably while I was whining about something. I've always felt that words are more powerful when written whether in a book or a torn piece of paper. I, of course, lost the piece of paper, which is why I almost never remember her wise advice until I've chained heavy expectations of my children to myself like a ball and chain around my ankle.

No wonder parenting is so exhausting.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

Have you been looking in my windows for blog material or something??? That's exactly what happens at our house! Except there are 4 of them. 6 years apart. And I homeschool. There is never quiet or a toyless floor.

I think we'll really be able to understand each other.