We often struggle with balance. We struggle with it before we become parents; add a child or two or more into the mix, and the challenges rise. And rise. And rise some more. Are they insurmountable? Is it even possible to be ‘balanced’ with young children in the house?
As I was mulling this idea over, my first response was, “Depends on the age. Not with a newborn, it isn’t. Everything is out of whack with a newborn.” But then I thought some more. I chatted about it with a few smart friends. Let the ideas roll around in my head for a few days.
And my conclusion?
Yes, it is. Even with a newborn. (The newest newborn is up to 3 months old, but for the purposes of this post, we’ll extend that to six months. A newborn will be a child up to six months old.)
But don’t panic! I am not about to up the ante, to declare that you can be put-together and sexy and keep a tidy home and put meals on the table and care for your other children and have time for your friends and have sex with your husband and attend school meetings and be productive at work and supervise the basement reno … while tending to a six-week-old. I am not going to do that. Not even close.
First, how do you perceive balance? Is it a daily struggle, or can you step back a pace and see it in terms of weeks, months, years? I think you can.
When a parent of a toddler worries about their child’s nutrition, I generally advise them to consider not what the child eats in a day, but what they eat over the course of a week. They may have an all-fruit, or a no-meat/protein day, but what’s their intake over a week? Is their diet balanced over a week? (It very often is.)
That is how we need to perceive ‘balance’. When you have a newborn in the house, you have to step way, way back. Having a newborn is a season in your life, a six-month season out of decades. During that season, your primary focus will be almost exclusively on the baby. Yes, there are other things that must be attended to (your other children would top the list) … but, really? That list of true essentials is pretty short.
When you have a newborn, particularly one less than three months old, you are immersed in their needs, their never-ending needs. You feed, you change, you feed, you sleep, you feed, you soothe, you feed …
Laundry? May not get done in a timely fashion. Housework? May not get done at all. If you have to go back to a paying job in this time, you’re not going to be at your best. You’re just not. You’re going to be sleep-deprived and distracted.
For a season. For a season you will be distracted, disorganized, focussing almost exclusively on this one, tiny, demanding, precious, aggravating, beloved, supremely important little being. This will make you feel like you’re out of whack. It’ll make you feel like you’re losing control, losing effectiveness, falling short of some standard of competence. But you know what?
There will be other seasons in your life. You’ve had a few before this. You’ve been a child, you’ve been a self-absorbed teen. You’ve been dependent on your parents, you’ve gained independence, you’ve been a student, you’ve held down a job, you’ve been single, you’ve found a partner in your life.
Each of those seasons has its demands and its pleasures. Now you’re in the ‘immersed in baby’ season. There will be other seasons after this, seasons where your baby grows and develops and gains his/her own independence, just as you did. There will even — and this is astonishing to realize when your baby is so small and all-consuming — come the season when your child is only one of many relationships in your life. An important one of course, but when your child is an adult, moved out, perhaps with children of his/her own they will just not be in your thoughts every waking moment. (No more than your parents are for you, now. You care, but they don’t consume.)
So, for a season, your housework will likely go to hell in a handbasket. Laundry will probably pile up, rooms will certainly get cluttery, baby stuff will take over your living room. You will have trouble being patient with your other children. You will likely not feel like having sex with your husband a whole lot. You may be groggy a lot of the time, easily distracted, you may find it hard to concentrate. Your memory will probably vanish in the fog of sleep-deprivation.
And that’s OKAY.
It does NOT mean you are not ‘balanced’. At this moment, for this season, you are focussed almost exclusively on that baby, and that is exactly what you are supposed to be doing right now. You can’t do it all. You shouldn’t even be trying. That’s not your job just yet. Another season will arrive, in three months, in six months, and you will begin to pick up the things that you’ve dropped for now. Dropped because you are holding something far more important.
Which brings me to my second point. What are you going to pick up again?
Too often we define balance as doing it all. We think that somehow, if we could just find that perfect point of balance, we could magically keep it all going. All at once. But, seriously? Do it all? At the same time? Take a look at this picture. Is this “balanced”?
Things piled on top of things, demands and expectations and roles and responsibilities, one piled on another, an enormous mound of “I must” and “I should” and “I have to”, until you’re nothing more than a stressed-out bundle of reactivity? Is that balanced?
Looks more like ‘insane’ to me.
You want to live your life like the Cat in the Hat, scrabbling frantically to stay on that ball, keep everything in the air at once?
Or do you realize, as one of my smart friends pointed out, “Balance is not doing it all; balance is choosing what to put down.”
Do the beds really need to be made every day? Do you have to attend that meeting, take on that volunteer work, sign your older kid up for gymnastics (and then drive them there twice a week)? Do you have to? Really?
I doubt it. For three months, for six months, you can let a whole lotta stuff go. You can, and you should. You take the life-long view and ask yourself, “In thirty years, will it really matter that I didn’t make cupcakes for the kindergarten bake sale? Really?? Will it matter in thirty years?” And then, when the newborn season is ending and you actually have the strength to take things back on, do it slowly. Pace yourself. Decide what is truly essential and what is optional. And I mean truly essential. Use that 30-year screen to filter out the non-essentials. Bear in mind that your definition of ‘essential’ and ‘optional’ will not be the same as another person’s. An uncluttered living room matters to one person; family dinners together matter more to another. That’s fine. Just make sure that your ‘essential’ list isn’t five times as long as your ‘optional’ one.
Pare down your life to the stuff that’s essential and the stuff that brings you peace and satisfaction. You may not achieve this kind of balance (though it’s a good goal!) …
… but you’ll be a whole lot happier.
A story from Friday. You might recall Friday? This happened late Friday afternoon. I was tired. I was perhaps even a bit giddy. I can get that way when I’m tired. We are singing, as we do in the late afternoons.
“Old MacDonald had a farm!
And on this farm he had a…”
“Grace, it’s your turn. What did he have?” Grace flips over the card in her lap, looks at the picture.
“He had a pig! And what sound does a pig make?”
Grace snorts most realistically. No anemic ‘oink, oinks’ around here. No, we go for full-on, full-nose, open-mouthed snorts, snorts with added value grunting. Because we have been to the farm! We know what pigs sound like!
The song continues. Each child has a card in their lap; I have a pile beside me, ready to hand out for the next round of verses. Rory had a goat. Jazz had a bunny. (No, bunnies don’t make noises — unless you count the “I’m-going-to-die!!!” shriek of terror, which I am not about to teach a bunch of babies — so what we do is twitch our noses. Cutest damned thing you ever want to see, five toddlers attempting to twitch their noses. Assuming you can get them all to twitch at the same time. Generally Grace and Rory manage it while the others give them WTF stares…)
So. Grace had a pig, Rory a goat, Jazz a bunny. And Poppy?
“What did he have, Poppy? What animal is that?”
Poppy looks at her card, considering.
“Arse.” Her voice is firm. She knows what she knows. “Arse.”
I quell a giggle. “No, lovie. That’s a cow.”
“Cow, that’s right! And what does a cow say?”
She knows the “moo”, attempts a creditably drawn-out lowing. “Mmmmmoooo.” We’re back on track. Away we go, taking turns through sheep, duck, rooster, dog … and then… this picture hits the top of the pile.
So of course I give it to Poppy. Because I am mature like that. Poppy is pleased to see this picture, because this one? This one she knows!
(HA! Did I call that right, or what?!)
You will recall that I am a wild and weary woman by now, twenty or so minutes from closing on a Friday afternoon. Teachable moment, pshaw! Improve her vocabulary? Correct her pronunciation?
“That’s right! Arse!” I start to giggle. The kids smile tentatively, as they often do when an adult is being inexplicable. “Old MacDonald had an arse!” Now I’m laughing. “In fact,” I say, because I am totally on a SUPER-CLEVER, totally HIGH-CLASS roll now, “Old MacDonald had a whole herd of arses!”
I’m not quite rolling on the floor laughing, but it’s close. Rory, Grace and Poppy laugh with me, though a bit uncertainly. What are we laughing about? God knows, but it must be funny!!! Right? Yeah! Daniel doesn’t often pay much attention to circle time, but my
hysteria giggles have drawn him in, and he stands at the edges, grinning broadly.
“Arse! Arse!” Poppy has gathered in some vague way this word is the source of the hilarity. “Arse!”
I attempt to sing, “Old MacDonald had an arse”, but I shudder into giggles partway through. The others are laughing without reserve now. Full-on belly laughs all round. We are a jiggling heap of lunatics right now, even though only one of us knows what’s so damned funny. Laughter being contagious and all.
Jazz, however, appears immune. She surveys the bedlam around her disapprovingly.
“NoooOOO!” her voice is thick with indignation. “HORSE. Is a HORSE, Mary!”
Does this calm us down? Not even close. In fact, and I know this might surprise you — it certainly surprised her — her protests just made me laugh harder. She huffs at us. Poor indignant, over-ridden Jazz. And the laughter rolls on.
Friday afternoon turned out to be pretty good, after all, all things considered.
Thank you, MyKidsMom!
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Lookit that! It works!
Friday, it’s Friday! Friday, Friday, Friday. End of my week. How do you make little happy music notes show on a blog? There must be some way… Well, you’ll just have to imagine my lilting voice and happy dance.
Let my enthusiasm mislead you not. I do indeed love the children. In fact, I love my whole damn job. I am one of the minority of people blessed with a job I love, a job that brings me love and laughter — really, sappy as that sounds, it’s just the truth — every day. How many people can say that?
But… Friday, Friday, Friday!
I have my day planned. Friday is playgroup at the local community centre. We’ll be there this morning. We’ll come home for lunch — Singapore noodles — and have nap. After nap I have a fun craft planned. (Little painty feet. With any luck I’ll be organized to take picture for you all.) Finally, we will put our toys away, and then round out our day with the singing circle we have most afternoons.
A day full of fun and activity. Crafts, colour, running, playing. Love and laughter.
We will have our singing circle, during which the parents will arrive… And then, when that last child leaves, I will:
1. Breathe in all that lovely, luscious SILENCE. For one, two, three deep breaths, I will just stand there. And be still. And soak up the stillness. Silence. My friends, the deep ringing stillness of silence is little short of bliss.
2. Having had my moment of bliss, I will launch into activity. A brief, very focussed few minutes of activity. I will take my Flylady timer, set it for five minutes, and give each of the three rooms on the main level five intense minutes of whirlwind tidying. In fifteen minutes all surfaces will be clear (or clear enough), any remaining toys/materials put away, and all floors swept.
3. I will survey my tidy home. (Or tidy enough.) I will breathe in the silence again. And I will pour myself my Friday evening glass of wine.
That is my goal. It is 5:30 Friday morning as I type this, and my sights are fixed on that lovely moment when I will sink my weary butt into my favourite chair, my tidy home full of peace and quiet, my glass of wine in my hand. A well-deserved oasis of me-time, that moment.
That is my goal. That is the finish line at the end of my race. However, the last couple of weeks have shown me that right now, this isn’t a walking race. It’s not an uncomplicated sprint, or even a straightforward, if gruelling, mini-marathon. What I have ahead of me are hurdles, people. HURDLES.
Peace and quiet and wine shouldn’t be too hard to achieve. I am, after all Organized and Prepared. The children’s lunch is already made. My family’s dinner will be prepped during naptime. I have my routines. I have my patterns. They work.
They work, that is, right up to thirty to fifteen minutes before closing. Which is when the parents arrive. And then things get complicated, because when parents arrive, kids — certain kids — start playing fast and loose with that whole “who’s the boss” idea. With mummy here, do they REALLY have to listen to Mary?
So between me and my glass of wine in my tidy house I have:
Hurdle #1. The kid who won’t get dressed for her parents. Right now it’s Jazz, but there’s always one. Always. Often more than one. Each and every item of clothing — and the colder it gets, the more there are!!! — is an EVENT. An event to be resisted at all costs. The coat goes on, over loud and whiny protest, but the hat is refused. Or the mittens go on while the hat is ripped off. Or the coat is undone while parent struggles to get shoes on. Like dressing a greased eel. A very loud greased eel.
But really? That one’s not too difficult. I evade that hurdle altogether by getting her dressed and ready before her parent shows up. Neener, neener. Her folks are sensible enough that anything that’s tossed to the floor just gets picked up and carried out with them.
Hurdle #2. Then there’s the kid who wants to bring mummy into my home and SHOW HER STUFF. There isn’t always one of those in the group, but right now there’s one. So at the end of the day, when we’ve finished playing and finished crafting and PUT EVERYTHING AWAY, one kid is hauling mummy into my home to TAKE THINGS OFF SHELVES.
This, my friends, is NOT ON.
(And guess who it is? Yeah. Combined with her resistance to getting her gear on, I’m seeing Jazz’s urgent desire to haul mummy to the furthest reaches of my home more as another example of “I’m not cooperating with your agenda” than any genuine desire to share the wonders of the day with her parent. “You want me to head out the door? HA! YOU come HERE and look at THIS!”)
This one is slightly more difficult to deal with. Her mother,
poor deluded woman reasonably enough, believes that Jazz really is that enthused about her day. Furthermore, like most parents, she’s genuinely interested and curious about what happens here all day. Of course she is. So, yeah, she’d like to see. Only, this is Friday evening. Only, Jazz is usually the last child collected. Only, I am potentially moments from peace and quiet and wine, and I DO NOT want to retreat from that goal, not mere inches from the finish line.
So, no. “I’m sorry, sweetie. We’ve put it all away. We can’t get it out now. You can play with it next time.”
And then I stand in the way. Just TRY getting past me kid. (You too, mom. I like you, and I’m sympathetic, but it’s two minutes from closing on a Friday. We are not doing this now.)
Hurdle #3. Two of the children are friends outside daycare as well as in. So when their mummies arrive, the last two parents to come, what more natural thing to do that start their own little private playdate IN MY HOME? The girls see their mothers, then one leads the other to the far end of the house. Running, thundering, laughing and screaming down the length of the house. The other, quieter child follows.
(Guess which is the lead child, the ring-master, the running, screaming, pounding child? Yeah. See the pattern yet?)
Their parents find this cute. Which it is. Their parents also just stand there and watch them. And this I Do.Not.Get.
It’s Friday. It’s (I may have said this before) TWO MINUTES TO CLOSING. One of the mothers is even making moves to follow her daughter into my kitchen. The hell? Do these parents not WANT to get home? Do they not WANT to start their weekends? What’s WITH this?
Two minutes to closing. So I walk to the kitchen and I corral the girls. Herd them toward their mothers. Let them know we all had a WONDERFUL day, and now it’s time to go home.
Shove Wave them out the door. Close it.
And breeeeeeeeathe in the silence.
I can hardly wait.
I’m reading “I was a Really Good Mom before I had kids“.
It’s an entertaining read, and I have lots and lots of responses to it, none of which you’ve heard about. That’s because I’ve been too busy reading, see. Reading and scribbling down responses. The problem with blogging is that it fits in the same time spot as reading. So, very often, I can do one or the other, but not both. Certainly I can’t do a LOT of one thing and still do the other.
Lately, I’ve been reading. A lot. And it’s been wonderful. Not so good for the blogging, but wonderful for me. Sorry about that. (Well, not really all that sorry. As I say, it’s been wonderful. But here I am back! Aren’t you glad?)
However, “I Was a Really Good Mom” is a good book, and certainly good fodder for this site. (I do worry about all these neurotic, over-achiever moms with the astonishingly low self-esteem, though. Are they really that prevalent? Or is this book marketed to a particularly fragile niche of the mommy world?)
With that caveat in place, it’s an interesting, thought-provoking read. One of the features of the book is a recurring green sidebar titled “Dirty Little Secrets”, and in each is a confession of some small mommy misdemeanour.
Here’s a sampling:
My girlfriends and I decided that 4 p.m. is the “new 5” when it comes to pouring that first glass of wine every day.
(To which I respond: Is there some rule you can’t drink before 5 p.m.? Who knew?)
Some of them are silly. This one made me laugh out loud:
Sometimes I think, “I can’t believe I gave up nine months of drinking for this.”
Been there! I suspect we all have. (Except my Quebecois friends, who tell me that the French advice books allow one glass a day after the first trimester. How about that?)
Some of them made me sad:
I’m continually running away from my children. I love them, but they just drain me. There’s a poof of smoke at 2:30 p.m. when my help arrives and I fly out the door.
I am not thinking “What a terrible mother!” She says she loves her children and I believe her. We all know what a drain our children can be on our energy, our emotions, our selves. But for most of us, the feeling of being depleted is temporary and occasional. We all feel that urgency to flee … once in a while. How sad for her that this seems to be her everyday response to them. However, given that this is her experience, how sane and sensible for her to arrange some mother respite, so she can enjoy them when she’s with them, and also have a daily breather. (And how fortunate she is that she can afford it.)
Some had me nodding along, some I just couldn’t relate to AT ALL. But they’re all honest expressions of other women’s anxieties and “failures”, and as such, valid.
[Total Tangent About to Begin: And then there was the bizarre one. I don’t know what it’s doing in this book at all, because it has nothing to do with mothering. It does make you wonder whether she’s an incredibly (even pathologically) loyal wife, or if she’s an incredibly (even pathologically) repressed one, because she’s got to be one or the other. (One hopes for her husband’s sake she’s not both…)
I have a very vivid, very sexual dream about my contractor. So I fired him.
To which I say, WTF? He loses a contract because your subconscious was lusting after him? Where’s the justice in that? And what’s wrong with lusty dreams? And why on earth, if you find him that attractive, didn’t you just pour yourself that 4 p.m. glass of wine and inconspicuously enjoy the scenery?
That was by far the weirdest one by me. And I still don’t know what it’s doing in this book.
End of Tangent.]
We all have these dirty little secrets. I posted about one of mine here. That was one I really had trouble confessing to. THAT one made me feel like a poor mother at the time, no doubt about it. And, even years later, I feared the judgement of others… because part of me felt it would be warranted. Pretty near everyone has experienced a few of those, I’m sure.
Another, smaller and less significant DLS, formatted to the size of a sidebar, is this:
One day I didn’t strap the two-year-old into his stroller, and when I bumped up over a curb, he flew forward onto the sidewalk. I bent over him and pretended to make sure he was okay (which he was), but really? I was using him as a blind to look around and see if anyone had noticed.
If I were a nervous, low-self-esteem sort, I’d be convinced my response said all sorts of reprehensible things about my priorities as a mother, my ability to love the child, my appalling selfishness. Never mind the first failure of cavalierly endangering my child’s safety by not buckling him in! Which is BAD ENOUGH!!! But then I compound is with total lack of compassion, lack of guilt and sheerest ego???? SURELY I should be worried about the CHILD, not the potential embarrassment to ME!!! What kind of a mother am I???
But I have sturdy self-esteem. I’m a good mother. I didn’t feel like a failure, I felt like a doofus, and I didn’t want anyone to see me being a doofus, thanks so much. But yes, 1) I didn’t buckle him in, 2) I managed to eject him onto the sidewalk, and 3) I was more worried about public embarrassment than my failings as a mother. Ooooooooo….
Okay, now it’s your turn. What are your dirty little secrets?
If it were half empty, this woman would be one of my clients.
Stories like that are good for morale, you know. Whenever you’re feeling frazzled and frayed, you can be assured: It Could Be Worse.
Not that I am feeling frazzled or frayed. I just don’t feel much like blogging these days… :-)
Poppy is happily snuggled in her mother’s arms, on her way home at the end of the day. Mummy settles Poppy’s hat on her head. Poppy instantly rips it off and tosses it to the floor.
“Hey, silly girl!” her mummy laughs as she takes the hat I’ve scooped and handed back. “It’s raining out there. You need that hat!” She pops it back on again.
Poppy’s yowl is loud and outraged. The hat is flung again.
“Poppy!” Her mother’s face is a mixture of displeasure and confusion, her voice dismayed and scolding. “What gets into you?”
More outraged howls. Poppy’s shoves at her mother’s hand with the hat, and howls ever louder. She does NOT want to wear that thing, dammit!
Mum stops trying to put the hat on and peers dubiously at the steady downpour hammering the sidewalk. “Well, okay then. I guess we’ll just have to make a run for it.” She turns to me. “I don’t know what gets into her! She used to be so cheerful! Now she just gets so … mad!”
Parents are often surprised by their child’s first displays of
rebellion disobedience independence. Though it’s expressed via rebellion and disobedience, what you’re seeing here is independence. Independence, expressed in the most primitive, unsophisticated manner possible, of course — “NO!!! AH! Shove! Flail! Struggle! Scream!” — but independence all the same. More than surprised, parents are blind-sided by it. Blind-sided and left struggling for an appropriate response.
It took me a while to register the surprise. The struggle for a response was reasonable enough. This is a new behaviour. Your previously charming and biddable 10-month-old or 12-month-old is morphing into a strong-willed, defiant, uncooperative 14- or 16- or 18-month-old. You’ll have to develop new types of responses, a different set of patterns, and that can be difficult. But surprise? I wasn’t expecting parents to be surprised by this. We all know that kids develop that push for independence and autonomy in their second year of life. We know this. Right?
Now I’ve noticed the parental surprise, though, I see it a lot. It’s not that these people didn’t know about ‘terrible twos’. Of course they did. They just naively thought that their sweet, mild-mannered, cheerful, cooperative kid was going to be the exception to that rule. Because there are mild-mannered two-year-olds out there. (No, really. There are. I’ve met a few. They’re just thin on the ground, is all.)
After all, not all babies are sweet and easy. Since their child has always been so sweet and easy, why wouldn’t they continue this way?
Well, because it’s developmentally standard to have a period of negativity, is why. Normal.
But still, a goodly portion of my clients are utterly blind-sided the first time their child shrieks in indignation, the first time their placid little dumpling screams and shoves because their madly controlling parents are attempting to rob them of their independence, thwart their will, demean and belittle them by trying to do something to them, something that MUST BE RESISTED AT ALL COSTS, something so terrible…
change their diaper.
Change their diaper. Which has only happened 800 times already in the child’s life. 800 non-eventful times. Perhaps even 800 fun-filled times. But no! Suddenly, diapers are EVIL and people who want to change them are MEAN and I AM NOT GOING TO COOPERATE WITH THIS ONE TEENY BIT HOW DARE YOU?????
The surprised parents respond in a couple of typical ways. They either take it too seriously, or they don’t take it seriously enough. (I know. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Parenting can feel like that some days.)
Those who take the outrage too seriously tend to back off, appease, coax, negotiate. Poppy’s mother falls into this camp. Poppy resisted attempts to put the hat on, even though it’s in Poppy’s best interests that the hat stay on in the pouring rain, and mummy back down. Mummy is creating problems for herself here, but I sympathize with her confusion. Her baby is just so ANGRY!
Those who don’t take it seriously enough see it as a cute l’il stage, and assure themselves that “she’ll get over it, it’s just a matter of time”. They’re not distressed so much as amused, but the result is the same: They back down. It is a stage, true, and she will pass through it to other developmental stages, but if parents do nothing to help her learn better responses, the strategies for conflict she’s learning now will become entrenched. Tantrums, anger, rigid inflexibility and utter disregard for other’s needs will become the way she deals with conflict.
Not a pretty picture.
The best parental response to baby’s anger is the middle road: take it seriously enough to act on it, but take it lightly enough that you can laugh at it.
You take the anger seriously because this sort of behaviour is not something you want to become entrenched. “When I throw a fit, mummy backs down” is NOT the life lesson you want to teach your child! It’s a terrible precedent, and will ensure years of family stress and strife. She needs to learn consideration, that others have needs, too. She needs to learn that parents do have authority. Parents need to exercise some healthy selfishness.
However, you don’t take the anger so seriously that you feel guilty for thwarting your child. Poppy was insisting on going bare-headed into the pouring rain. Should mom feel guilty because she shoves a hat on her head and tells her it has to stay, and holds it there if need be? Or, alternately, feel guilty when she chooses to let Poppy get uncomfortably wet so as to learn from experience? (Short answer: No. Duh.)
But parents, particularly mothers, do feel this guilt! They feel guilt because their child is angry. Have you ever stopped to consider how foolish that is? Who has control over another person’s emotions? No one controls emotions but the person experiencing them. And since when are emotions necessarily rational, sensible, or fair?
Or, equally foolishly, some parents even begin to wonder about their parenting in the face of this rage. “Maybe I’m damaging our relationship! He needs to be able to trust me!” Oh, for heaven’s sakes. The child is less than two, and throwing a complete fit because she doesn’t want to wear a hat in the pouring rain. It’s totally normal that the child have absolutely no sense of perspective on this… but surely the parent can manage? Your entire relationship is going down the tubes because when she was 16 months old you made her wear a hat in the rain?
How about this? You expect that your child is going to get angry with you. Outrageously, spitting angry — over silly things. It’s developmentally normal. You see the anger, but you don’t take it personally. They’re not angry with you so much as with what they see as an infringement on their autonomy. (Not that they’re sophisticated enough to make that distinction… but YOU are.) You see the anger, but you don’t fret much over it. You might even laugh at them, just a little. Because it’s normal.
Just because it’s normal, however, doesn’t make it acceptable. So, you see the anger and you take action. In this example, Poppy’s mother could have plonked the hat on her head, and held it there. She could attempt to explain while she did this (but it’s likely Poppy wouldn’t be particularly open to chat just then), or she could just restate her position: “Hat stays on. ON.” And then held it while they headed outside, utterly ignoring Poppy’s attempts to rip it off. Poppy thereby learns that when mummy says something, she means it. She learns that her anger is ineffective. And maybe she learns that hats keep your head warm and dry. (Though I doubt that last one.)
Or, Poppy’s mother could have held the hat in her hand, pointed out the window to the rain, and explained. “It is raining outside. It is very wet. Really wet. If you don’t wear a hat, you will get wet. Do you want to get wet? Or do you want to wear your hat?” And then let Poppy make the decision.
When it’s her choice, Poppy just might decide to wear it. It’s been known to happen! But if she decides not to wear it, Mum respects that choice. No coaxing. No trying to get her to change her mind. So Poppy goes outside without the hat, and gets soaked. Maybe that will bother her, in which case, Mum can explain why we wear hats in the rain. Maybe it won’t bother her, in which case… oh, well. Kid’s not going to perish because she got wet on the way to the bike trailer.
And Poppy learns that some choices are hers to make. Some choices are bad ones, and you learn from them.
The point is that you don’t focus on the anger. The anger is a distractor. It is not the issue. What we want to stay focussed on is “Will she wear the hat?” Whether or not she ends up wearing the damned thing, you need to ensure that the anger is not effective.
You can certainly address the anger, but briefly. “You’re angry. Boy, are you angry! It’s okay to be angry, but you may NOT hit mummy.” And then you move on. Emotions, as they say, are never right or wrong. It’s what you do with them that matters. She can be angry … but she can’t hit, she can learn to lower her voice, and she certainly can’t use her anger to bully those around her.
Anger is not the point. Don’t get caught up in it. Address it, then move on to deal with the real issue. Eventually she will learn that screaming and flailing are not effective techniques, and they will be dropped from the repertoire.
Cave in to the rage … and it’ll be around for a long, long time.
It is! Truly rotten!
I probably shouldn’t be laughing so hard…
I tweeted this, but it bears repeating.
Jazz and Grace, chanting the familiar rhyme. Many of you know it, I’m sure. It goes like this:
FIVE little monkeys
Jumping on the bed.
ONE fell off and bumped her head.
Mama called the doctor, the doctor said,
“No more monkeys jumping on the bed!”
Next verse, FOUR little monkeys, etc., etc.
Only yesterday, when Jazz and Grace sang it, the doctor’s prescription was slightly different.
Mama called the doctor, the doctor said…
“NO MORE MONKEYS HUMPING ON THE BED!!”
I should say so.