Your baby lies on her back and blows bubbles at the world.
Awww. Isn’t that cuuuute?
Your baby rolls over!
Hey, honey! Look what our baby can DO!!!
Your baby claps his hands, takes her first steps, says his first word. Your toddler puts on her own shoes. And every time, your parental heart surges with love and pride. “Awww. Isn’t that so sweet? Look what my baby can do!!!”
You’re all familiar with that. Well, I’m here to tell you it doesn’t stop when the child is out of diapers, nor even when they’re out of school…
What is the most troublesome parenting concern? What is the aspect of parenting that effects discipline issues, self-esteem issues, child-control issues, tantrums, whining, family dynamics… you name it?
- how you feel when you are angry with your child
- how you respond when you are angry with your child
- how you respond when your child is angry with you
- how you respond when your child is angry with/about anything else
In short, there isn’t one aspect of interacting with your child that isn’t affected by your attitude to and response to that most troublesome of emotions.
And if you haven’t got your own anger (and your attitudes to it) sorted out for yourself in a useful, constructive way, you are going to have no end of trouble with anger as it arises during child-rearing.
If you’re sitting there saying, “Well. This doesn’t apply to me. I’m never angry with my little darling. Sometimes I’m disappointed or sad, but never angry”… if that’s your attitude, you have some SERIOUS denial issues. Everyone gets angry. Everyone.
But that attitude and its close relation, “Anger is bad and I shouldn’t feel it” cause more parenting problems than I can count.
Let’s clear something up right away: Anger is not bad. It is not wrong. It is not a sign of a weak personality. It does not make you a bad parent.
Anger is simply and emotion, and (say it with me, people) emotions are neither right nor wrong. They just are. Where the rightness and wrongness comes in is in the expression of the emotion. But here we must clarify still further. Expressing anger is not wrong. Necessarily. What matters is how you express it.
“Easy for you. You never get angry, not really angry.” These words were spoken by an abusive man to a woman I know. Why did he believe that, when it was patently false? Because she never went into frothing, out-of-control rages. If she really felt anger, he reasoned, if she really got angry (like he did), then she, too, would go into wild, manic rages. He figured that because she didn’t become abusive when angry, she couldn’t really be angry.
Whether we agree with his reasoning consciously or not, a lot of us base our responses to anger on those same assumptions. That is our fear: Anger = Danger, Mayhem, Violence.
Which it does — in toddlers. The thing is, by the time we achieve adulthood, we should have developed the control over our anger such that we can be angry — really and truly furious — without losing control. You can be angry without screaming and hitting and biting and spitting and throwing things. A young toddler can’t. An older toddler can, mostly. (Yes, they can.) And an adult? Of course you can.
Not only is anger not necessarily destructive, anger can be actively constructive. So few people understand this. Anger can be the catalyst for change, the motivation to take brave steps, the fuel for justice, pushing us those one or two steps further than we would normally go. Anger is a tremendous motivator, applied properly.
Yet we have this tremendous fear of anger. A fear so strong that we can’t allow ourselves to be angry in our children’s presence. We can’t allow ourselves to let our children know that we are angry with them. We cower from our own anger, and thus deny our children invaluable lessons of our good emotional modelling. And when our children are angry, we tend either to cower from it — cave into any and all demands just to appease it and make it go away… either that, or disallow it entirely. Neither are helpful, healthy, or effective, for you, for the child, or for your relationship with the child.
We have to get past this. We have to learn to deal with anger in a useful, constructive way. So that we can parent our children effectively. So that our children can learn to manage their anger by seeing us do it, by being allowed to be angry, by being taught to manage theirs as we manage ours. We need to learn to be angry, properly, constructively.
So we can all be happier!
Noah, he of One Word Utterances, looks up at me.
“You have a poop in your diaper?”
“Aye.” (Really. He says ‘aye’ for ‘yes’. His parents and I have decided he’s channelling a Scotsman. Either that, or he was Robert the Bruce in a former life.)
And he runs away. Except… he’s not running away. He’s running to our change area. No, I don’t have a changing table. I have a nice diaper shelf which doubles as an end table. The tots are changed on the floor close to the diaper shelves.
He bombs over to the shelves and takes a diaper, one of his diapers, from his section of the shelf, and lies down on his back. When I catch up with him, he hands the diaper to me.
“You want me to put that clean diaper on you?”
He’ll be two in a couple of months. I’ve been faked out before, but I’m hoping I see early training in his near future…
I have three children. As of last weekend, only one of them lives at home. Mah baybees are growing up!
Ms. Mazzola (State of Denmark) is doing an informal research project on blogging along with the AP English class she teaches. Anyone who wants to participate may do so by completing her list of questions and leaving a link in the comments to this post.
1. How long have you been blogging?
Since April 2005. Just over four years.
2. Why did you start blogging?
I’m not sure. My husband and I each started blogs about the same time, but I can’t remember what inspired the idea.
3. What have you found to be the benefits of blogging?
- a permanent record of events, thoughts, and ideas – far better than relying on my porous memory.
- discovering a community
- discovering I’m something of an expert in my field!
- the joy of writing.
- I view the blog as source material for a book. Or two.
- I’ve made some real-life friends through blogging
- I’ve even made some money through it
- I’ve done (paid!) work in a field I’d never have considered were it not for someone I met through blogging.
- My kids love that they can google my name and find me all over the place. It’s almost like being famous…
4. How many times a week do you post an entry?
I used to be very conscientious about five, sometimes six days a week. Now I am reasonably consistent, but not religiously so.
5. How many different blogs do you read on a regular basis?
It used to number a couple of hundred. Now I probably read 10 regularly, and several dozen more semi-regularly. I try to visit the blogs of my commenters, at least when they comment.
6. Do you comment on other people’s blogs?
7. Do you keep track of how many visitors you have? Is so, are you satisfied with your numbers?
I check in from time to time, much less obsessively than I used to. I’m not entirely satisfied with my numbers, no, because they’ve dropped some, but I know what I could do (used to do) to improve that, and I’m not motivated enough to do it… so I guess I don’t care that much, do I?
8. Do you ever regret a post that you wrote?
No, though a couple I’ve written make me a teeny bit nervous. Oh, wait! One. On another blog (a paid gig, no longer in existence) where I wrote about something personal to my eldest daughter, which I shouldn’t have mentioned without her permission.
9. Do you think your audience has a true sense of who you are based on your blog?
No. MaryP is a persona. People project all sorts of things onto her, based on their perceptions of my career. (A reader I spoke to on the phone kinda-sorta expected me to have a British accent!) I am less outgoing than people imagine me to be, yet far more wry. Though essentially a kind person, I am not at all sentimental about small children, and I have, in the right company and situation, a bit of a potty mouth.
10. Do you blog under your real name?
11. Are there topics that you would never blog about?
Yes. Personal things to my family. My real feelings about some of the parents. (!!) I never write unkind and/or malicious stuff, though I enjoy irony, and occasionally allow myself to be just a teeny bit acerbic.
12. What is the theme/topic of your blog?
My work as a daycare provider: cute anecdotes about the children interspersed with more serious essays on parenting.
13. Do you have more than one blog? If so, why?
Yes. One for fun/daycare, one for my more personal thoughts, where I never mention my work. One gets updated several times a week, the other whenever I think of it, sometimes not even once a month. The first is public; the second is private.
“I don’t like this banana now.” Anna wrinkles her nose at the brown bit toward the bottom. “I’m done.”
Now, I’m not going to let her get away with that, but before I can draw breath, Emily interjects.
“You has to eat that part, Anna! It’s the candy part!”
“Candy?” Anna is dubious but intrigued. Candy is good…
“Yeah. The parts that are brown are sticky and sweet like candy!”
The banana disappears in two bites.
“Yum!” Anna declares. “Banana candy!” Gales of toddler-giggles.
“Banana candy?!?!” Emily loves it.
“Hey, Mary! Can we have some more banana candy???”
Emma’s got a new boyfriend!
Actually, an exclamation point isn’t necessary. Emma is a friendly, warm, pretty and… curvaceous girl. Boyfriends, or boyfriend wannabes, have never been in short supply.
They’ve been going out for three or four weeks now. Declan’s been over for dinner once, and in and out of the house enough that I’ve decided I quite like the boy. (Such an improvement over the last one. It’s reassuring to see your kids learn as they go!)
Yesterday, Declan’s mother, having decided it was time to Meet the GF’s Mother, dropped him off. I see him cross the street, followed by a woman a little younger than me… and I recognize her. Vaguely. From somewhere.
In the dusty reaches of my memory, something stirs, and I can tell by the look on her face, it’s happening to her, too.
“You’re… someone’s mother,” I say. Because I am Astute and Insightful. “I mean, I know you’re his mother, but…” Because that’s her category in my mind. Somebody’s mother.
She catches the vagrant memory before I do.
“You do daycare!” Which she’d known all along. Ha! We are both Astute and Insightful. “You looked after my son!”
“Declan?” I turn to BF. “Declan and Niamh?” (Niamh is his younger sister.) And suddenly I see it. He is indeed. Those same eyes. “Ha! You’re Declan!”
(Thankfully for Emma’s peace of mind, I have never seen Declan’s wee naked butt… or anything else. He came to me as an after-school kid; he’d have been six or seven at the time. Emma was three.)
Declan’s eyes are darting between the two of us. He’s not sure whether to be alarmed or reassured by this radical development.
“Wow. Emma’s sure changed,” mother observes, and I chortle. From curly-headed, bounding moppet to beautiful young woman. Yes, she sure has.
And the mothers talk about change, and reminisce, and wonder at life, how quickly it happens, life passages, growth and challenge and gratitude. About kids and husbands and…
Declan wanders into the house, reassured, calling out to Emma. “Hey, Em. Guess what?”
See you tomorrow!
From LunaNina, a weekly free association meme. The rules? There are none. “There are no right or wrong answers. Don’t limit yourself to one word responses; just say everything that pops into your head. AND you don’t have to have your words up on Sunday. Take all week if you want!”
But since it’s free association, and you’re supposed to say the first thing that pops into your head, how long could it really take? Seconds, that’s how long, and here’s mine. Make of it what you will.
- Vex :: Wax (??? Near as I can guess, I just picked another 3-letter word ending in x.)
- Relapse :: Pool (Relapse is to fall back, like you could fall backwards into a pool?)
- Twinkle :: Star
- Crawls :: Baby
- Optimistic moment :: Yes
- Cage :: Nicholas
- Superwoman :: Flight
- Personal :: Space
- Vapor :: Barrier
- Grocery store :: Fluorescent lights