I might be raising a monster

Holy crap my son is terrorizing my house!

So, at first it was cute; he wanted to play in the Tupperware. We locked up the cleaning supply cupboards and let him putz around. He moved onto the pots n pans cupboard, and we had a cute afternoon of him and Lola sitting in the kitchen making “soup.”

Then I had to lock up the Pyrex cupboard. Glass is less adorable to play with. Oh, and shoot, we better lock up the cupboard with the food processors, sharps! This was getting less cute. It’s not cute when you have to pull locks off the cupboards every time you want to take out some crackers or a bowl, or worse, when you want to throw something away. And that damn sweet baby wants to be held all the time, so you’re trying to unlock the cupboards while completing everything with only one hand. Let me confess, there has been more than one time that garbage piled up on the counter until there was enough to bother unlocking the cupboard for.

Then he found the toilet.
Every. Single. Time. The opportunity comes up- slap, slap, slap- little crawling hands and knees making a beeline for the toilet. He wants to splash in it. He wants to float his bath toys in it.
He wants to chew on the remote controls. He wants to push all the buttons on the cable box. He wants to disassemble every nightlight he can find. He wants to tip over the humidifier EVERY DAY! He wants to dump out my purse and toss the recycling around the kitchen and fondle all the kitchen utensils and he really, really wants to eat Lola’s Polly Pocket doll who is now always missing her head.

I haven’t been able to take a peaceful morning shower in months. Even when I lock up the cupboards, I have to find something to put on top of the toilet. And then I often have to take most of my shower with one foot up on the tub side holding the curtain closed to prevent Corbin from opening it up and getting the floor all wet, or throwing stuff in. My favorite was when he finally got tall enough to reach the wastebasket that we had been putting up on the back of the toilet. I peeked out of my shower to see Corbin sitting amidst the garbage sucking on the insides of a Butterfinger that Lola had tossed in there (probably because the kitchen garbage was locked up) after eating all of the chocolate shell off. I totally finished my shower before leaping to action. Don’t judge.

I lament to my mother that I don’t think it was this bad with Lola. She assures me that it was, and briefly my mind flashes back to the time I found Lola using the cup I rinsed her hair with in the tub to scoop up toilet water and drink it. But here’s Lola’s slightly-less-monstrous distinction: Lola wanted to play with everything and anything. If she was getting into something really bad, I would just distract her with something else fun, and she would move on. Corbin is obsessed!

He wants whatever inappropriate plaything he wants and he REALLY wants it. Not some poor substitution. Not his new foam blocks. He wants Lola’s hairbrush dammit! And he has a bit of a crying fit when he doesn’t get it. And I now worry like crazy about what kind of tantrum throwing brat I might be raising.

But the worst part is- sometimes I cave! Too often! I just can’t take the crying anymore, and if letting him dump out and crush every last dixiecup means I can actually both wash AND rinse my hair today, well, what’s the harm? If letting him chew on the remote this time means I get five more minutes of peace at 5am, well…..no one tell my husband on me!

But I’ve got to figure out a better strategy. Because this morning I let him rifle through the bathroom cupboard until he found the nail polish. But then when I tried to stop him, he flipped. So I got ready for work with my knees pressed firmly against the cupboard doors while Corbin threw a fit. Because he had experienced the glory of digging through my old curlers and biting on hair dryer attachments and now he would not. Be. Denied!

What am I gonna do with this kid? Seriously. Someone tell me. Because tantrums are something with which I will not put up. I’m just not cut out for that crap.

The best part about that picture is that I actually put the pasta back in the box and back into the cupboard! Just so Corbin can play with it next time. I’m such an enabler.

All Over but the Shouting

Alright, that title doesn’t REALLY make sense here, but I really liked it anyway.¬† ūüôā

I don’t want to yell at or around my kids, and it turns out that’s REALLY REALLY¬†difficult.¬† I try.¬† I swear I try!¬† And I’m okay with sometimes when I just need to.¬† When I’m across the room and Lola does something that could potentially harm her brother, for instance, I’m okay with yelling then.¬† I don’t think my child will be scarred by some raised voices.¬† But overall, I’d really like to avoid yelling and harshness.

Sometimes I have a talk¬†¬†with Brian about yelling at¬†Lola too much.¬† I am aware while I’m doing it what¬†a hypocrite I am; I yell at her too much too.¬† I mean, I try hard not to, and I’m pretty successful a lot of the time.¬† But anything more than very¬†rare occasional yelling is more than I’m really okay with.¬† And when I hear it, as an outside observer, I am bothered by the harshness.¬† I don’t want us to be harsh with our kids.¬† And Brian especially has a tendency to get a little … yelly.¬†

I don’t really even want to yell AROUND my kids.¬† I am an emotional person.¬† I overreact to things.¬† I get loud sometimes.¬† I yell at my husband when he doesn’t deserve it (sorry, Baby!)¬†and when he does (sorry about that too, actually.)¬† I want to stop that, especially in front of the kids, but I don’t know if I know how.¬† I mean, can I just make a decision not to do it, and then just not do it anymore?¬† It’s not a conscious thing sometimes.¬† I have been more aware of it lately, though, and I think that’s a good first step.¬† And now here I am sharing it with the world.¬† Maybe that will help to make me more accountable.

Then I start to think-¬†is that ridiculous?¬† To be against yelling at or around your kids?¬† It’s certainly not a familiar stance to me.¬† And none of us are really worse for the wear.¬† So I get to wondering if maybe everyone’s thinking “what kind of weirdo, overly permissive, hippy parent says no yelling?”¬† But, I still want to be firm with my kids.¬† In fact, I could stand to be a little more firm.¬† Just without the yelling part.

And I also think-¬†if someone yelled at me as much as people seem to think it’s¬†okay to yell at kids, I think I’d feel like crap.¬† And you know, being young doesn’t preclude one from deserving respect.¬† And also, kids do frustrating stuff!¬† Little shits.¬† Some of it is sort of exploratory and to be expected.¬† Some of it is just downright naughty!¬† Most of it is just because they are not just shorter adults.¬† They’re still learning how to process information and frustration and emotions.¬† And we LOVE THEM!¬† So, maybe we could make sure that we practice a little patience, respect, and empathy with them the vast majority of the time.¬† I know that with Lola, just acknowledging her feelings can help shorten a meltdown, whereas reacting harshly just makes her feel unheard and makes her melt down more.¬† And sometimes nothing helps.¬† And sometimes she’s just being a brat.¬† But, she’s still entitled to her feelings, and yelling still doesn’t help.

And then there’s the obvious but often-overlooked side effect.¬† What does it teach your kids when you have a grownup meltdown when things don’t go your way?¬† Well…it teaches them to have a meltdown when things don’t go their way.¬† How would they learn otherwise?

I hope this post didn’t make it sound like there is all kinds of yelling going on around my house all the time.¬† There isn’t.¬† But there could be less.¬† There SHOULD be less.¬† And I’m going to make that a top priority starting now.¬† I’ll keep you guys posted.¬† ūüôā

Good Kids Misbehave

So, I want to expand a bit on the Lola Misbehaves at the Dr’s Office thing from this morning’s post.¬† See, that was only ONE of the many instances of Lola’s misbehavior yesterday (and it wasn’t even the most noteworthy.)¬† It’s always the most fun when they do it in public, though, isn’t it?¬†

Anyway, I really feel like I’ve turned a corner on the discipline front.¬† That incident yesterday confirmed it for me.¬† Even a month ago, if she had acted like that, I would have started a shame spiral full of self-criticism and self doubt: what do I do wrong that my kid is so naughty?¬†¬† My embarrassment and disappointment may have driven me to treat her overly harshly.¬† Or to be semi-paralyzed for fear of further judgement.¬† But yesterday I guess I was just too stressed out to bother with all that crap.

I did take stock of the situation as I drove us home.¬† What did I do wrong in that situation?¬† I do this a lot when Lola misbehaves, after I’ve calmed down from my frustration, I try to figure out where I went wrong.¬† So I can maybe do better next time.¬† And the answer came back to me: Nothing.¬† I didn’t do anything wrong.¬† Good kids misbehave.¬† Kids who are parented really well?¬† They still misbehave sometimes.¬† They’re kids.¬† Every instance of Lola not acting exactly as I want her to is not an indication of failing on my part.

This might seem like, “Well, no kidding,” to many of you.¬† But it was a revelation for me.¬†

When she started to throw a whiney fit that morning because she couldn’t have candy, I didn’t get all snappy at her; I just knelt down and explained to her why we can’t eat candy whenever we want to.¬†And she was good with that. ¬†And when, later that afternoon, she threw ANOTHER whiney fit because she couldn’t have candy (it’s a common occurrence since the Easter bunny visited), I did get a little snappy.¬† But I didn’t beat myself up about it.¬† Her whining about candy is not evidence that she’s a naughty kid; it’s just normal, human,¬†3 yr old behavior.¬† My snapping at her was not a big fail; it was normal, human, mom frustration.¬† I told her I was sorry, and we moved on.

It’s a work in progress, this acceptance of the idea that misbehavior is not indicative of either of us being big, fat failures.¬† I read Sillyliss’s post¬†this morning about shopping with her daughter and riding the escamalator, and¬†I thought, “that sounds like Lola.¬† Except Lola would totally not shop with me without driving me to the brink of insanity with all her running off and hiding in the clothes racks and other assorted shenanigans.”¬†

And then I decided that was just fine.¬†We’re working on the discipline thing.¬† Both of us.¬† We’re practicing.¬† We can’t expect to just be good at it without practicing.

And furthermore, Lola is Lola.¬†Maybe some kids are just naturally more … orderly.¬† And maybe she’s just not one of them.¬† So she’s not a natural follower?¬† That’s not really a bad thing.¬† And that mouth?¬† It will serve her well when she has a sincere and reasonable objection to injustice¬†or peer pressure.¬† I mean, it should hardly come as a surprise to me that I would have a daughter who speaks her mind.

Now maybe that’s a copout.¬† Maybe the perfect parent would be better at keeping Lola in line.¬† Maybe Lola would benefit from that.¬† I certainly have my shortcomings when it comes to discipline.¬† And parenting in general.¬† But I’m the parent she got.¬† And I’m really trying!¬† That counts, right!?¬† Lola’s not complaining.¬† The other day, she helped me make cupcakes, and afterwards, as we took turns licking the beater, she told me, “you’re my best friend, momma.”¬†¬† She’s a wonderful kid, so I seem to be doing okay so far.¬† And if she colored on the wall with her crayon yesterday, well, that’s just a rite of passage, right?¬† One of those things that all kids are hardwired to do? ¬†I cleaned it up, and I didn’t even sit around thinking about what I did wrong to cause that behavior.¬† Progress!

How to Ruin Your Kid

I have been reading so many books on parenting and specifically discipline.  When I was pregnant with Lola, I read a TON of books.  But they started to freak me out.  So by the time she was born I had sworn off books about motherhood altogether.  It served me just fine for a long time.  Then I lost control of my child.

When she started pushing 3, I realized that I needed some sort of instruction.¬† I can’t so much as adopt a damn kitten without obsessively checking out EVERY book on the subject at the library.¬† So the fact that¬†I made it two and a half years relying solely on my own instincts is a testament to what an absolute PEACH of a baby/toddler Lola was.

Has a sweeter kid ever lived?  I think not.

So, when things started to go downhill on the discipline front, I figured it was time to seek out the advice of the experts.¬† Which expert to turn to?¬† Love and Logic, EVERYONE is doing it.¬† It had been made very clear to me that Love and Logic is the key to every struggle.¬† If you just follow this instructive tome, your child will behave, and if they don’t,¬†it’s¬†simply because you’re¬†not doing it right.¬† So I eagerly read at least 3 of the roughly 14000 Love and Logic books.¬† Yet somehow, they didn’t work for me.

Give choices?¬† Okay, but what do you do when you’ve told your¬†manic¬†daughter that she can choose to walk to the car or to be carried to the car, and instead she chooses to smack you in the head?

Natural consequences?¬† Okay, but what exactly IS the natural consequence of this?¬† If you ask me, the NATURAL consequence of smacking somebody¬†in the head¬†is a good ass kicking.¬† But mommy don’t play that; that’s one¬†I DON’T need a book to explain to me.

So I continued reading, finding many books.¬†¬†I even BOUGHT one when my library didn’t carry it, which is a big thing for me. ¬†Here’s the thing- I was looking for some explicit instructions on what exactly to say and do. ¬†If I’m gonna shell out 6 bucks in late fees to the public library, I better not ALSO be expected to think for myself. ¬†But instead, I was repeatedly made painfully aware of everything I SHOULDN’T be doing, much of which I was already guilty of.

In case anyone else is wondering, here is a brief summary of all of the things you are probably already doing that the parenting books think someone should call CPS on you for, or at least that you should be putting aside money for your kid’s future therapy for.

Don’t:

– Don’t bargain or bribe.¬† Um, do you mean don’t potty train?¬† Because candy and temporary tattoos are my child’s SOLE motivation for using the toilet.¬† And frankly, I would probably give her a flippin PONY if it meant I didn’t have to clean poop out of her clothes or my floors ever again.

-Don’t make empty threats.¬† All those times you told your¬†kid that if she didn’t come with you right this minute you were going to leave her at the store/zoo/pediatrician’s office, and she was just going to have to live there forever?¬† Yeah, don’t do that.¬† Apparently after a few rounds of this, they figure out that your desire to teach them a lesson will be strongly outweighed by the possibility of someone calling the cops on you.¬† Also, maybe it’s just my kid, but it seems this is not a negative threat anyway.¬† Sometimes I feel like she’d rather live ANYWHERE than at her home.

-Don’t forget to lavish them with praise.¬† Apparently you shouldn’t tell them what they do wrong.¬† Just make sure that you acknowledge cheerfully EVERY time they do something RIGHT.¬† I really try to do this. There are a lot of utterances of “great job getting in the car without a 15 minute wrestling match!”¬† Though, I willingly get in my car every day and I have yet to receive a cookie for the act.

-BUT Don’t praise them too much.¬† A book I recently picked up warned me to BEWARE the dangers of praise.¬† Lest my child begin to resent the praise (huh?) or grow up to be an approval junkie.¬† Seriously?

-Don’t yell.¬† UGH!¬† I totally fail this one.¬† Are there actually people who are able to NOT scream “Lola stop sticking that toy drumstick down your brother’s throat, he’s choking!”¬† Because a light and breezy tone eludes me pretty often.

¬†Here’s my favorite:

-Don’t make ANY consequences for your child.¬†¬†Okay, I quit.¬†¬†I am not for harsh punishment.¬† But no consequences? Perhaps a really GOOD parent would be able to raise a happy, healthy Lola without ever giving her a timeout.¬† I am not that parent.¬†

¬†Now, this is just a small sampling.¬† I’m sure you’re doing MANY things wrong that I’ve left off my list.¬† Lord knows I am.¬†

funny New Yorker cartoon:

Update

I took both the kids to Target.¬† By myself.¬† Well, except for the two kids.¬† And one out of three of us didn’t cry!

After my post about feeling like everyone can handle their kids but me, I decided what we needed was practice.¬† So, sort of like practicing the piano when I was a kid, I dreaded it but knew it had to be done if I ever wanted to be as good as the others.¬† Also like practicing the piano, I imagine it will happen once or twice, and then I’ll decide I’d rather do less important stuff, and I’ll have to just wing it at the next recital, er, public outing.

I tried all the advice from all the moms who wanted to give it. 

Prep in the car for what I expect. Check.

Wear the baby.¬†Check, totally already planning on it.¬† He screams like a banshee every time he’s in his carseat, and wearing him makes him cry at least a little less.¬† Plus I love babywearing.¬† TWO women at Target complimented me¬†on my Babyhawk one day and I felt cooler than if I actually had well-behaved children.

Let Lola pick one thing that she may purchase at the end of the trip if she’s good.¬† Check.¬† Love that dollar section at Target.¬† She picked a color-it-yourself bunny mask.

If Lola doesn’t follow the rules, she has to ride in the cart.¬† Aaannnd¬†here’s where we fell apart a bit.¬† Lola hates to ride in the flippin¬†cart.¬† She ran away from me.¬† I called her back.¬† She ran back to me, but then, oh no, Faked you out Mom!¬† I’m actually going to run PAST you and go the other direction.¬† I told her if she didn’t stay nearby she’d be riding in the cart.¬† I caught a salesclerk¬†looking at us and smiling.¬† Aren’t preschoolers just adorably mischievous?

Then she ran away again.¬† Now I had to put her in the cart.¬† Except, did I mention that Lola HATES to ride in the cart!?¬† So I had Corbin just in a Peanut Shell this time (yes, I have MANY babywearing¬†devices), so I am picking up Lola to put her in the cart and she’s physically fighting me tooth and nail and Corbin is getting squished and jostled and guess who’s not smiling at the adorable family anymore?¬† Yeah, the seemingly kind salesclerk went straight from solidarity to Holy Hell, lady, you’re too pathetic for my kind glances.¬†

I DID manage to not¬†totally lose it, and that’s actually a big win for me.¬† I firmly, but respectfully explained the situation to a crying Lola.¬† She was not having it.¬† So, next tip…

Be ready to leave if you have to.¬† Fine, but I HATE this suggestion.¬† People, I work full time.¬† I have a baby who screams bloody murder every time he’s in the car and Target is 15 minutes away from my house.¬† As is the grocery store, and most other places.¬† There truly are times that I just can’t leave my cart and take my kids out of the store, or we won’t be able to eat for a few days.¬† Not to mention, I know EVERYONE else can haul a large 3 yr old throwing a fit WHILE carrying a crying baby, but it NEVER works out for me.¬† The last time I tried that, I ended up half dragging Lola, who tripped, tripped me, and we all fell down.

But Target is not an essential place, and I would have been able to go back the next day.¬† So I meant it when I told her that we had to put her bunny mask away and go home (even though, on the inside, I was SOOOO¬†not into that plan).¬† This made the fit WORSE of course, but I knew that’s because it worked.¬† I got down on the level of my teary, frustrated little Bean, and I said we were on our way out the door unless she rode calmly in that cart.¬† She got in, and was totally happy within 45 seconds.

So, was that a fail?¬† Was I supposed to have left when she wouldn’t get in the cart the first time, rather than start to leave then give her one more chance?¬† Did I mention what a pain it is for me to get out to the store again?

She was really pretty good after that.¬† Then Corbin started crying while I searched in vain for a jacket for him.¬† Because by the end of February all you can buy is shorts.¬† In Wisconsin.¬† There is like ONE month of Summer here!¬† So I then had to buy bathing suits, even though it won’t be hot enough to swim for MONTHS, because apparently if you don’t by those before the end of March it’s denim cutoffs for your kids, missy.¬† And I had a little trouble with one last important tip…

Consistency.¬† The checkout process is another difficult part for us.¬† And while Lola performed all sorts of unsafe acrobatics in the cart that the checkout¬†lady TOTALLY went back and bitched to her checkout lady friends about, I halfheartedly said “Lorelai!…” and then fizzled out.¬† Because Corbin was fussy and I was spent.¬† When the checkout lady looked at me standing there with Corbin, she said “Aw, somebody looks tired.”¬† I think she meant the baby, but really, it was all of us.

However, I’m putting this one in the Win column, because I didn’t call Brian crying from the car immediately afterward.¬† WINNING! (Will you, too, think of Charlie Sheen now every time you see that word?)

Please feel free (encouraged even!) to leave your tips for making public outings with more than one child less painful.