Thursday, April 12, 2007

Picking My Battles

Writing about parenting is hard. It’s different in that way from writing about children, which is about as difficult as falling off a log – the young imps practically write the posts themselves. Writing about motherhood can be equally easy – the transformation is miraculous and complicated, but oh-so-recognizable. But the actual ins-and-outs of parenting, the day-by-day decisions – it’s almost impossible to write anything about those without devolving instantly into clichés. Every child is different. Balance in all things. Pick your battles.

And yet I want to write a post about parenting, about the tightrope dance I’m performing right now between over-indulgence, on the one hand, and repeatedly hitting myself in the head with a two-by-four on the other.

Case in point. It has recently been discovered that Bub can be made to eat his breakfast with a spoon. All it took, really, was a willingness on our part – okay, on hubby’s part – to endure a few early-morning tantrums. The process involved three simple steps: (1) Tell the child to eat with a spoon. (2) Remove bowl from grasping fingers. (3) Listen to ear-splitting shrieks of horror. Repeat daily until no longer required (in our case, about three days).

Now an uncomfortable precedent has been set. Because if Bub can spoon up his Shreddies today, what happens tomorrow? Dressing himself? Potty training? Eating the same meal as the rest of the family instead of whatever he chooses from my short-order menu of chick peas, grilled cheese, and peanut butter on a spoon?

For a long time, what parenting taught me was submissiveness, stillness, the art of holding my breath until the desired behaviour emerged. How do you get a recalcitrant toddler to talk? By saying less, creating silences that the toddler can fill. How do you get a prickly preschooler out of the bath? By warning and waiting, holding out for the moment of compliance that will avert the knock-down, drag-out tantrum. Sometimes that moment never comes – but many times I would wrestle flailing limbs into flannel pyjamas wondering if just a few more minutes of patience on my part might have prevented a meltdown.

Now, though, it’s time for me to update my game. Pie is not as averse to transitions as her brother (her tantrums occur for other reasons, such as my unwarrantable habit of eating my own breakfast), and Bub himself is more sophisticated than he once was, capable of more than I’ve been expecting of him. It has occurred to me lately that perhaps it’s not a good thing that Bub considers obedience to be so profoundly at odds with his fundamental dignity as a human being.

All right - that’s not wholly fair. Bub amazes me with his compliance sometimes, turning his back on an exciting game of kick-the-ball, protesting and complying all in the same breath. "That’s great cooperation!" I told him this morning as we headed for the car after a half-hour of roughhousing in the church gym.

"I don’t want to be cooperating," he replied. And yet he was.

I do set boundaries, pick battles, establish rules. No bowls of cereal before supper-time (unless Bub is sick, or asks in an unusually polite or verbally sophisticated manner). A five minute warning means five minutes. The child who wants to play in the back yard on a sunny day gets to overrule the child who wants to stay in and watch TV. Naptimes and bedtimes are strictly observed. There is no hitting, and most pushes and shoves are dealt with promptly.

But the rules I set for Bub are nothing compared to the rules he sets for me. Breakfast must be served before the Pie gets up for the day: any premature appearance on her part will be heralded with shrieks of protest. Cereal must be offered in a green bowl, and carefully stirred before it will be consumed. Diaper changes occur with appropriate television entertainment (in order to compensate for the unbearable boredom of having to lie down for three minutes) – either Hi-5 or Dora the Explorer, depending on the time of day. When it’s time to head out, Bub must be carried over any deposits of snow or ice – and then he must be allowed to open the car door by himself before climbing into his seat, his book-of-the-week securely in hand. That takes us up to about 9 am – and the rest of the day is similarly regimented.

The Pie is the easy-going member of the family – she has to be, in order to accommodate Bub’s routines. But that doesn’t mean she’s not observing and adopting his tactics. She has quickly learned how to enforce rules of her own. Soothers are to be provided on demand. Mama’s food is to be considered fair game (to be consumed from a lap-top position at her sole discretion). Requests of "Up!" are to be ignored at one’s peril, and once she is up, she’s entitled to anything she sees (which means, since last Sunday, lots and lots of chocolate).

I don’t suppose any of this is unusual or dangerous behaviour – I just wonder when and how to take back the asylum. The few battles I’ve picked I’ve won handily (though not without zooming blood pressure and a splitting headache), and that makes me wonder just how high I ought to raise the bar.


Marla said...

I really really really REALLY try not to offer assvice, and normally I'd just email you privately with a pssst...but in this case, I have to shout "READ THIS BOOK! MY LIFE, AND THEREFORE JOSIE'S LIFE, IS BETTER NOW BECAUSE I READ IT!"


I will happily tell you more about how it wowed me anytime you like, especially if it's over bourbon and Pocky some night. I'd loan you my copy, but I keep it on my nightstand and kiss it before I go to sleep every night.

bubandpie said...

All right, Marla - a recommendation like that I can't ignore - I just put a hold on it at the library.

BUT - I have Mary Sheedy Kurcinka's sleep book and despite all the useful information in there, I often want to haul off and SLAP the woman - so it's a testament to your powers of persuasion that I'm giving her a second chance, here.

Mad Hatter said...

And sometimes I don't even know what the battles are from day to day b/c the ground shifts. Do I fight this Max and Ruby thing NOW or do I wait to see how things play out after the molars are in? Is today the day I shoe-horn my life to get my daughter to eat our food at our time knowing that my husband's work dinner break is too late for her and she will float off in a refined carb snack stupor by being forced to wait OR do I continue making separate meals.

I really do wish the battle lines were drawn, you know? Sometimes I kick myself for being to lax, too laid back, too accommodating. Other times, I feel like such an inflexible dictator.

I feel your anxiety in posting about it all b/c I felt anxiety just commenting about it all.

chickadee said...

enjoyed that post because i can so relate. and not only do you have to pick the battles, the battles change pretty often so you have to stay on top of things. so tough,the parenthood job.

nomotherearth said...

That's funny, because I think have the opposite problem - I think that I should learn when to relax the rules a bit, to go with the flow more. It's hard, because the Boy obviously prefers a scheduled lifestyle - he's resistant to change. But I wonder if he wouldn't benefit from stepping outside the boundaries a bit? And me too.

bubandpie said...

Nomo - That's the exact thing. When they're babies, you're (obviously) making all the decisions for them, and then one day they turn into toddlers and there's this steep learning curve on how to ease up and create space for their contributions to the decision-making process. Then suddenly you wake up and realized that you have totally ceded the decision-making process to the toddlers ... or at least it feels that way some days.

flutter said...

I wish I had something to offer, by way of advice. All I can think to say is, try not to set anything on fire....

Mary-LUE said...

Lost comment alert! Shoot!

Okay, the gist was this. I don't have answers for your specifics, but, because my children are older and so I can pretend I am sage and wise and all that stuff, whatever you do, it'll all work out in the end.

So many of the things I fretted over and tried so hard to do the right thing and felt like I was failing, well, they turned out all right. For example, my 14 year old son is thoroughly potty-trained, doesn't throw temper tantrums (well, not really), responds when adults say hello to him, follows directions...

This doesn't mean that you don't still have to work out all these details for yourself, but here I am, waving a little farther down the road to say hang in there, you're doing a great job!

slouching mom said...

We are confused as well -- aren't we all, really -- especially about Ben's lifelong (and he is nearly ten!) aversion to almost every single food there is.

It has been so hard to fight against his unbelievably strong will, especially when he thinks nothing of engaging in hunger strikes if he is denied one of the few foods he eats. The boy is 4'6" and weighs 60 pounds. His thinness interferes with my intent to be firm in having him eat what the rest of the family eats. That, and the fact that he has an overactive gag reflex, and we all know what that means! He's incredibly sensitive to the texture of food -- always has been.

It's tough. God, is parenting tough sometimes.

Jenifer said...

A resounding yes to all of it! Where do you draw the line, the million dollar question. For us it is usually food, everything else is fairly easy. Do I get all "Mommy Dearest" and serve the lunch they clearly asked for, but didn't eat again at dinner (Rosebud's trick)?

You read my post on food habits so you know I am guilty of making separate dinners, but the update is that sticking to my guns is paying off. It is so hard and we do not always succeed, but it is worth the effort. Our meals are slowly merging closer together.

Today for example Papoosie Girl was acting rude (by my standards) at the pediatrician's office. Basically, while we were talking she kept interrupting and was really distracting. I told her so and he punishment (besides apologizing to the Dr.) was I took her radio away for a week.

I am still second-guessing myself. The appointment was after school, she was hungry, was she really doing anything that naughty? Rosebud will sometimes ask me after misbehaving, "was the most naughtiest thing I ever did?" Maybe I am too hard on them sometimes, but my fear of bratty, rude, demanding kids keeps me from becoming too soft.

In my house "you get what you get" and that applies to cups, plates, which cookie you get, etc. My girls will say this to anyone visiting who complains about what they got as well. We started that phrase early on and it stuck. I do have friends though who say it is just not worth a battle over a cup and always concede, claiming does it really matter? Really, I have no idea as Lue pointed out I doubt her son insists on a certain cup every day.

I am going to go look for that book too. Every bit helps.

Alpha DogMa said...

Please, pretty please, can I watch when you slap Mary Sheedy Kurcinka? And then can I have a go? I think it would be a great marketing idea for parenting books, "I promise this will work, but if not you can slap me silly!"
Of course we all strive to be good parents, and we don't know - here in the trenches of mothering - if we are going a good job. We won't know until they are 20 or 30 or 40 or ....well you see where I'm going. The proof of our (in)competency is decades away.
BTW, from over in my corner: you're doing awesome.

jen said...

oh. yes. it's so hard to write about it, isn't it. i try, and then i regress to easier subjects. i've still not made my peace, or better said, staked my claim in my own motherness...and so it's uncharted and free falling and yet simultaneously, still and unbending.

i don't read books on kids. i can't, or i'll become compulsive about it. it's tenuous enough.

Mouse said...

We walk what I consider to be a similar line of over-indulgence and carefuly nurturing with Scooter. And there's a lot of it I refuse to feel guilty about because it's what he needs. Daycare has been good, because there are higher expectations of what he should be able to do and more opportunities for him to see other kids doing things--but they also recognize that kids are at different points.

Now we have picked a few things to be quite firm on and endured the loud and shrill protests for a short time (at this very moment I'm insisting he drink milk before he gets some orange juice). Also I don't have a second child to deal with at the same time, so I know that changes dynamics.

Andrea said...

This is going to be one of those obnoxious comments that everyone will hate me for.


Frances just does what I ask her to.

I mean, I know it's unusual, but it only really hits me how unusual it is when other moms write about how typical preschoolers behave.

Now you hate me.

But rest assured that I'm expecting this to bite me in the ass when she turns 13.

bubandpie said...

Andrea - In some ways, the Pie is like that: she happily falls in with most suggestions - but then she expects me to do the same for her. In some ways, that's harder (for me) to deal with than Bub, who demands little of me, but explodes predictably when I try to impose my own demands on him. At least with him I know when the tantrums are coming, whereas Pie is subject to unpredictable changes of the emotional weather (which leads me to share your excitement about the joys of parenting a pubescent girl - just imagine adding hormones to that volatility!).

Jenifer said...

Back again to say I think I really do have it easy overall. Besides food we really don't have any battles. They wear the clothes I put out and generally follow along with just about everything.

Since food is such a big one though it feels like a monster.

Rosebud recently tried apple - what an accomplishment.

I am beginning to thing ADM's theory of the measurement of our success is years and years away.

Loving these comments.

kgirl said...

This was a very timely post for us, as we just had a conversation last night, based on your Bub and Geister post, where we readily, easily admitted that Bee can be a bossy child. And of course, who does she boss around? Us, mostly. And do we let her? Mostly.

Em said...

Your Bub reminds me of my Willow (eg, the whole breakfast scenario) If Willow's routine gets disrupted she rebels terribly... I have been told by many people that I must not forget that I'm the parent (ie, the boss) but it isn't quite that easy.

Willow is not like other children... she NEEDS that order in her world to try and make sense of it. She's isn't engaging in a power struggle at all... for her it is about feeling in control of her environment so that she can function. I know that Bub isn't Willow... but I wonder if there is something a little deeper going on here?

cinnamon gurl said...

The thing is, I don't think we'll EVER know if our decisions are right. Because even if our kids turn out great, we'll never know if that's the result of our efforts and worries and diligence and laziness, or if it's the result of the kid being who the kid is.

Just the other day I was talking to a woman about sleep... she slept with her son for his first two years, and he was a champion sleeper. When I told her about Swee'pea's sleep and how he still hadn't come close to sleeping through the night, she asked if I was a good sleeper, which I am. I am a champion sleeper when given the chance. She was surprised. She said she always figured her son was a good sleeper because she was a good sleeper. This is just one example of why I think it's dangerous to attribute too much significance to our parenting when looking at our kids. I've heard that recent research shows that kids influence parenting styles more than parenting styles influence our kids. But I have nothing to back that up.

This is a great post, one close to my heart as we suddenly seem to find ourselves in toddler territory... it's scary and unfamiliar and I don't have a map or a compass...

bubandpie said...

Em - That's the challenge, isn't it - distinguishing between genuine emotional needs and pure orneriness. When Bub first developed his book-attachment I didn't recognize it as such and took his book away when we went in to a playgroup. He was distraught and shortly thereafter I recognized how important his book was to him as a security object.

Then, yesterday, he switched his allegiance to a large library book (instead of the compact board books he has carried everywhere for the last few weeks). I can't let him carry that with him everywhere - it's logistically impossible and liable to result in ripped pages. So we had to work it out: I was firm and immovable on the "Book stays in the house" principle, offering several alternative books (which were angrily rejected). Then, after ten minutes of enraged kicking in his carseat, he choked out through his sobs, "Mouse book? Oh, where's mouse book?"

Well, mouse book was at home. I briefly considered turning back to get it, before deciding that this was going too far. Fortunately, I had a crappy little board book in the diaper bag, which he accepted as a substitute - a decent compromise between his need for a book as a security object and the general constraints of reality, which have to be taken into account sometimes, right?

Mad Hatter said...

I have one more thing to add here. No one has mentioned (in my quick skimming of the comments) the role that genetics or biology or whatever you want to call it plays into it. Some kids are simply predisposed to turn out all right. I was raised in a no boundaries, single parent environment. You couldn't imagine a more conformist, rule abiding citizen (barring all the political leftiness) than me. If parenting were the sole marker of good citizenry, then I whould be a very bad citizen indeed. My mom spent a lot of time crying on her bed or leaving us in the care of siblings while she tried to earn a few bucks.

My sister's best friend is raising a child with some form of socio-pathic disorder that she was born with. Her violent outbursts need to be medicated. She cannot be left alone around other children b/c she will cause them harm. The chore of parenting her has ruined her parents' marriage. Her older sister is a rebellious teen for no other reason than the stress of having an abusive sibling. No amount of parenting (and these people are good parents) could/can turn this child into a content model citizen.

Surely we come packed with some behavioural dispositions that determine who we will be despite the best or worst parenting in the world. I am often anxious about my parenting but I am always, always grateful that I was given Miss M to parent. She wants to please. She wants to be happy. That is such a great place to start from. Just like you said about Bub--you can predict his unpredictabilty and it gives you the boundaries you need to operate in.

Mad Hatter said...

Please ignore typos: "whould"? Yikes. In me defence I did try to edit a "should" into a "would" and just missed a letter.

Gwen said...

Sometimes I think parenting is like writing: just when you find the words you thought you needed, you discover that you require new ones.

mamatulip said...

I think a key to parenting is picking your battles. There are so many instances in the day where I say that to myself in my head...sometimes it's just not worth it to duke it out, you know?

Catherine said...

Ever since my baby was born - and ascended the throne as local dictator - I've wondered if I'll recognize the moments when this needs to change. When I will need to ignore his wails and teach him to conform to my will, instead of the other way around. What a tightrope, as you call it...

Kyla said...

Ah, the delicate dance of battle choosing. Tricky, tricky. I go by this "If its not broke, don't fix it." rule. So if it isn't something that is detrimental or that I don't care strongly about, I don't push it. We have more limits for BubTar, because he is almost 5 and can understand the rules and reasons. KayTar is the picky dictator around here. In fact last night at the dinner table she was making faces because she wanted us to copy her and we were of course, and BubTar said "Why are you doing that? You KNOW she's not the BOSS of you." Josh and I chuckled quietly to each other, because in many ways, she is the boss of us at this point. I suspect when she gets older, we will have to start choosing some battles. It is difficult because most of her preferences are based in her differences and things like that I don't think you can change.

Wow, that was rambling. I apologize. :)

Amy said...

Good lord, I thought that things were tough now. I hadn't thought far enough ahead to realise that soon the rats will have willpower AND a voice AND the ability to veto!

I'm not sure that I can survive thinking that far ahead (at least I assume it is far ahead, at what age should I expect this behavior to start?


Bon said...

it's just starting for me. the "oh, you're eating?" squeals of protest that accompany the unwarranted selfishness of me wanting to eat, too, once O has consumed his tasty mush.

you're breaking a quiet taboo, i think, laying all this out. just as teachers seldom talk about what really happens behind the closed doors of their classrooms, i don't often hear parents talk about the difficult things that happen behind the closed doors of their home, unless these things accord perfectly with some societal vision of proper parenting.

thanks for stepping out to say this.

Jennifer said...

Oh, these are the real parenting questions, aren't they?! I think, as with so many other things there is no real answer.

For me, for us, in our home, the line is drawn where things become ridiculous, as judged by Mom and Dad's standards:

The child NEEDS to take a certain toy along on a car ride? Or just has to wear the dinosaur shirt AGAIN? Fine, no big deal. But the child MUST eat off of the blue plate, which is currently being used by another sibling? Well, sorry about that, kiddo, but nope. "You get what you get" is said often around here. I don't make separate meals either. And if they choose not to eat, well, that's their choice.

I think the key, for me, is not to fear their (unreasonable, situational) unhappiness. They cannot intimidate me with a tantrum or screaming or "Then I'm not eating!" because seven years and three kids into this parenting gig I've learned that bowing to that kind of behavior only brings more of it. And they've learned that that's not really how to get what they want. So after a learning curve (on all of our parts) it doesn't happen often anymore.

Except, of course, the days when it's not quite as easy as that... (*grin*)

bubandpie said...

Jennifer/Jenifer - Okay, I'm trying that "you get what you get" line. It's amazing how well that stuff works - we've tried the "Soothers are for bedtime" line with Pie, and it's actually working very well: tantrums for the first day or two, and then the occasional whispered self-reminder: "Soothers are for bedtime!"

Here's another dilemma - is it reasonable for Bub to expect that his food will NOT be taken from his plate and offered to Pie, even if he is steadfastly refusing to eat it? I'd rather give it to her than throw it out, but I can see the logic of his position - I wouldn't like it if somebody started scooping food off my plate and handing it to someone else.

Amy - Don't let us scare you. Raising toddlers is, in my estimation, about 100 times easier than raising babies. The second-guessing yourself all the time? Bad, but not as bad as with babies. The having to change up your game? Every six months or so instead of every six weeks. Better in every way.

Mom101 said...

You could fool me that it's hard for you to write about parenting.

"But the rules I set for Bub are nothing compared to the rules he sets for me..." wonderful.

Jennifer said...

Here's another dilemma - is it reasonable for Bub to expect that his food will NOT be taken from his plate and offered to Pie, even if he is steadfastly refusing to eat it?

That's a tough one and we deal with that around here, too. I generally ask the child who is not eating. "T, is it ok if A finishes your food?" If T says "No", then I don't give it to A. It KILLS me to throw food away like that, but I'm with you in that there is something that seems not right in scooping food off of one child's plate to give it to another.

(Funny enough though, while T would say "NO!!" often at first, she generally shrugs now and says, "Ok." Maybe it just took her some time to come to terms with the idea??)

I love the image of Pie whispering "Soothers are for bedtime" to herself. Aww.

Lawyer Mama said...

Like Andrea's child, my oldest generally complies. Personality-wise (perhaps it is genetic) he's much more like me. My youngest, however, is another story. At 15 months we can already tell that he will be a handful.

Here's another dilemma - is it reasonable for Bub to expect that his food will NOT be taken from his plate and offered to Pie, even if he is steadfastly refusing to eat it?

We have this problem too. Generally, I ask. If Hollis says no, I don't take it. It's not worth the meltdown. But if I can clear his plate (meaning, he'll let me) I can sometimes sneak food off the plate without him noticing!

And you are so right that parenting is difficult to write about.

Karen said...

Three cheers for "you get what you get" and our Kindergarten teacher ended that line with, "and you don't get upset." We're still running with that one.
Food on plate? I'm merciless. Can't throw it away unless no one is willing to eat it. I just can't do it to protect LP's feelings. Now he's almost used to it and sometimes refers to it as "sharing." I start him off with small portions and hope for the best (that he'll eat it all and we won't have to head down that path of potential meltdown).
In general, I often don't realize we've all crossed the line into crazy boundary-less parenting, until we've gone way past it, like the line is way way behind us. Then I have to do my best to keep my cool and re-establish boundaries without getting all pissy at the kids, cause it's my job to create the boundaries and their job to try and bust 'em. (cloud and townsend, boundaries w/children, my reference on this topic). So I then have to not punish them for what I've been allowing but call forth the behavior I'm seeking and hold to it. Usually I'm mad at myself when I've handed over the reigns, or mad at my husband cause I think he handed over the reigns, but really it's both of us that get caught in this particular parenting vortex.

Angela said...

Power struggles, mealtimes, bedtimes, timeouts, whining, hitting, temper tantrums, rules, wonder I'm always exhausted. I truly believe that there are no magic formulas, recipes or easy answers to our parenting questions, we all bring so many variables into the equation and our children are formulas without solutions. We have to pick our battles, choose from the countless theories and advice books, listen to our inner voice, observe parents who you admire...the list goes on and on.

Andrea said...

See, I'm still waiting for our first temper tantrum. We've never had one.

I agree with Mad--Frances is inherently self-raising. I could stick her in a crib, leave for 18 years, come back, and she would be a productive and well-adjusted adult. I won't, but I could.

Mary G said...

What a terrific post and what a terrific comments column. Grandma is about to weigh in.
I think what you are asking is whether it is right to indulge their fads.
My answer would be that it is, to the extent that you can tolerate the behaviour. When your patience runs out, so does the child's licence to demand anything unreasonable. How else is the child going to learn that he is not the centre of the universe?
And you will make mistakes. My daughters can still recall some of mine and the old percieved injustice echoes in the adult voice.
Tant pis ... they grew up healthy and sane and I was a good enough mother. They've told me so, many times.

Mary G said...

Oh, spit!

Marla said...

Now I'm going to make one more suggestion after reading the comments - this one:

The book, a gift from Nadine, is surprisingly NOT fluffy. It has also helped. And when I say helped in regard to the books I mentioned, I mean they helped me - not my kid.

When I was working with a trainer after I adopted a rather stubborn rescued Rottie, she trained me, rather than Beauty. She would tell me "You don't expect the dog to respond fast enough." "Your voice is giving a command, but your body is saying something else." and if only those techniques worked on my kid...

But MSK had me at "begin with the end in mind", and while I'm using liberal applications of salt (and never read her sleep book) I'll say that the suggestion that I ask my daughter what she needs in order to make something happen was worth the price of admission. Now, instead of a twenty minute battle, I can just ask "What do you need to do so that we can be ready to leave the house" and get an answer like "to use the upstairs potty instead of the downstairs one" AND NO SCREAMING!

As for Mommy sounds like the book equals the goat. You'll see.

bubandpie said...

Marla - We're almost to the point with Bub (in speech development terms) that we can ask a question like that and expect an answer. For so long, it was more a matter of trial-and-error, a series of experiments to determine what, exactly, he needs in order to leave the house with no screaming. One good thing about his love of routine is that the solution that works one day is liable to continue working for at least another week or two.

Sleep is a far more volatile issue than almost anything else involved in child-rearing, so I'm hoping the Power Struggles book will not produce the same violent impulses in me. What drove me absolutely nuts about MSK's sleep book was the way she positioned herself as the parents' advocate against nameless others who part from her ideology. The parents in her classes all, apparently, instinctively share her approach to sleep issues - undoubtedly because, what with the manipulative analogies and loaded rhetoric she uses, no one would dare admit otherwise.

kittenpie said...

I've been lucky, thus far, most of my bar-setting has been pretty damn high, and complied with easily. But Pumpkinpie is a naturally fairly compliant child, and when she starts pushing, I see a future of nothing but pushing flash before my eyes and it compels me to push right back.

So for us? end of bath struggles simply mean the plug gets pulled. It's not comfy being wet and naked in a cooling empty bathtub for more than a minute. Not eating a certain portion of veg and protein means no dessert. Being difficult at bedtime means no moments of hockey with dad before bed.

Yes, as I say, I've had it good, but when we do have encounter resistance, as in your case, it only takes a few days, a week tops, to break it down most times.

Than peace is restored. Phew!

All that said, I also have things I'm way more lax about than some other parents. She can have a piece of chocolate, if it's a dessert time and she hasn't had some already that day. She can watch an hour of tv some mornings. that sort of thing. I figure if I give up in moderation in some things, I've got a better shot.

That, and her ridiculously good language skills are a real boon, making all of our transaction easier, as my doctor noted. So that has certainly helped smoothe the way! I think it could be different if that were not the case, too.

the end of motherhood said...

The time to take back the asylum is now.

Giving small children too much control over the actions of the grown-ups in their lives actually makes them very nervous. You may find that when you are more clear about whose job it is to be in charge of the asylum, he will feel less need to control things and more freed up to BE in his own childhood.

Emmie (Better Make It A Double) said...

I've been thinking about this all week. There's choosing which battles to pick, and then how hard to fight the battles you picked. There's setting the bar high, then risking being a little drunk on the power of your success if it works, only to have it backfire a few days later so you remember you don't have all the answers and high standards don't cut it all by themselves. There's just remembering that some days you screw up, some days they screw up, and sometimes you only know in retrospect, which sucks. So I don't really know. I do think that in my own middle class mothering cohort, the bar seems to me to be set a little on the low side when it comes to behaviour and expectations. I don't think kids really want to decide when to go to bed, what to eat, where to go that day. I think "fear of the screech" plays a huge part in this, and if some parents could just get over this fear of meltdowns, they could ask more of their kids than they currently dare - but that's just my opinion (and not directed at your speific situation at all). Mostly I just empathize. A lot. Some days, my twins have me peeling myself off the floor after bedtime. Which is 6:45 PM, give or take a few minutes.