Today we hung out with new friends on our street. A family with two little girls exactly the same age as my boys. The Dad is friendly and fun, the Mum is interesting, chatty, and we have a lot in common. The baby seems sweet. So you can probably guess the problem..
The three year old is kind of a monster.
Look, I have a three year old. I know how it goes. They're unpredictable. In the course of an hour they can be sweet, funny, outgoing, shy, sullen and terrifying. Ollie has mood swings, he gets angry and he even expresses himself with violence sometimes. He tends to punch the air when he doesn't like what's happening, and once at a Target he told me that he was going to "pinch your face right off your neck till your head pops off".
But I've never really seen him hit another kid (although I am sure it's just a matter of time). I can't say the same about this new little friend. Maybe we caught her on a bad day, but over the course of our visit she hit, kicked, pushed and yelled at poor Oliver who, to his credit, remained mostly calm and cool while she acted out and was reprimanded. But right around the time I decided to wrap up our visit, she landed a swat and he asked sadly to go home.
My heart broke thinking about how open and friendly he was trying to be, and how relatively little I was really doing to protect him from her nastiness. I feel pretty confident that if someone presented a serious threat to my kids, I'd do something to intervene, but I also don't feel comfortable being disciplinarian with someone else's child, in their home. And toddlers are tricky, just when you think they've turned fully evil, they turn it around and are sweet as can be, so on my side of the visit, I was just waiting for the switch to flip, giving this little girl the benefit of the doubt that she had a mode other than violent.
But like I said they live on our street and without this issue, I'd have been looking forward to a blossoming friendship. So now I feel like I'm in an awkward position. When parents click but the kid's a menace what's the right call? I should point out that while I've been around terribly behaved kids who's parents were clearly the problem, I couldn't really see that here - every time she was inappropriate, she was appropriately handled.. there were just so many times.
Do I give this potential friendship another chance, operating under the assumption that this was a bad day for a good kid? Or would spending more time together be tantamount to forcing my son to hang out with a bully? Do I just need to get a little more "mama bear" on this little kid if things get nasty? How would you handle this?
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
|This picture has nothing to do with anything. It just cracks me up.|
In the past few weeks, between the news, our family life and Oliver's developing personality, I've been thinking a lot about all of occasions in his life when Oliver and I will need to sit down and have a serious talk. From the very early days of parenting, I think we think about those moments - sitting down side by side on the couch, driving somewhere in the car, around the dinner table - where we'll share wisdom, provide guidance or set limits.
After a few days in a row of difficulty with listening, pushing boundaries and even some of your basic, run-of-the-mill hitting, Chris and I sat Oliver down for one such talk recently, and it got me thinking. As Oliver's comprehension expands and his world becomes larger and more complex, any conversation I have with him could be "the" conversation, or at least one of "the" conversations in his life.
It can be paralyzing to think about all of the ways a few misplaced words might come apart and reconstruct into something you didn't expect.
I find myself watching for the moments that might carry more or less weight than they should and struggling to strike a balance between thoughtful, measured direction and authentic, genuine reaction. With a little bit of "relax, it's not that big a deal" thrown in.
Of course, it's a cultural cliche that everyone remembers (or has tried to forget) "the sex talk" they had with their parents, but its more than just the birds and the bees that stick with you forever.
For me, a long chat with my Dad about some of the themes in the Les Mis soundtrack we were listening to laid the foundations for the values I consider moral and just in my eight-year-old brain. A lesson in Sunday school about the evils of homosexuality snapped the reality of right-leaning Christianity into focus for my ten year old self, and an off-hand comment from an aunt in my early teens widened my understanding of "self" and shaped the way I thought about my body for a lifetime. I could reconstruct those exchanges, and more like them, word for word.
Over the March break several library books I'd been waiting for came in - coincidentally all on the subject of parenting and mostly on the subject of discipline and talking to your children. They had been recommended by a blog I follow, and I figured the investment of a few late fees (because who am I kidding, there are always late fees) was worth taking a chance on a dreaded parenting book.
I made it halfway through one before I went my own pig-headed way and gave up. Not because I have all the answers when it comes to disciplining a 3-year-old (ask either of Ollie's grandmothers - I'm sure you'd get an earful), but because there was one thing I couldn't stop thinking as I read about how to speak to my child with positivity, and the importance of process praise and why you must limit offering rewards and punishments. I might agree or disagree with those philosophies to varying degrees, but more importantly, I doubt very much that I can learn a new way of talking to my son and apply it at all times, and I'm not sure that I really want to.
Looking back on "the talks" of my childhood, the ones that stuck with me and made an impact were all delivered as a genuine expression of the beliefs and values of the person I was talking to. They might not have swayed my opinion to their side, they may even have driven me in the opposite direction, but they have informed my behaviour for my lifetime because they revealed to me something real and true about the speaker and allowed me to look inside for something equally true in myself.
Now of course when it comes to disciplining a three year old there are many occasions where it isn't so much about finding a truth as it is about grabbing a pair of scissors out of their hand and reminding them to listen for the 50th time that day. But even the more insignificant moments can be the tip of the iceberg. And when it comes to trying to build a solid foundation it's hard to remember a ten-point checklist of "how to talk so your kid will listen". It's simpler, I think, to know yourself and your values and what you believe is right, and then just try and speak and act accordingly.
Or maybe I just haven't found the right checklist yet. Any suggestions?
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Today I'm going to devote the currently link up to Emmett, who's nine months already. Nine months! Can you believe that?!
This chunky little nine month old is growing up too fast. Yesterday he had his nine month check up and clocked in at a whopping 20 pounds (his big brother only has six pounds on him!). Another important stat to know is that his head measures in the 98th percentile(!)! Must be all the brain food he's eating.
Emmett loves fish. And he loves pears. And he loves any food that is comically oversized for his baby-ness. I've never been able to convince him to try a puree - he flinches at the approach of a spoon as though I'm trying to poke him in the eye. So he's been a baby-led-weaning baby since day one, because he'll have it no other way.
And it isn't just food that isn't necessarily baby appropriate that he's into. Emmett loves grown-up drinks too. I love the part when babies start wanting to drink out of your glass, and Emmett's right in the middle of it, grabbing my glass whenever it chances by to try drinking some water, choking on it and then sticking his grubby hands in the drink. Repeat.
Like his brother before him, Emmett is also really starting to get into listening to and appreciating music. He'll dance to almost anything we put on, but his favorite song right now is me practicing my guitar, strumming between G and E minor over and over.. he's my biggest fan! At least once a day Oliver and Emmett and I sit down for a Family Band session. I pick up my guitar, Oliver grabs his, and Emmett rocks the Fisher Price piano and the drums. If I manage to capture his dancing and playing on video you will be extremely delighted. Trust me.
Although I do think both my kids are definitely super geniuses, I'm not going to go so far as to claim that Emmett is reading, even though that is one of the assigned words for this week. But Emmett does love a good book. He loves to chew it and open and close it and scream at it. And that's pretty much one of the building blocks towards reading, right?
And finally, I don't presume to know what Emmett is thinking about, but whatever it is, I am sure that it is deep and challenging.. because as you can see in those pictures up there, that little man has his tongue out at all times. If that doesn't help you think, what does? Right?
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
I think it is fair to say that sleep has been the most consistent challenge in my life as a parent so far. And given the staggering number of books on the topic of infant sleep it seems reasonable to say that that is the case for most parents out there. Oliver was born a dreadful sleeper, waking every 45 minutes for months, and Emmett seemed to become a terrible sleeper after a few months of my tutelage. One way or another, I make sleepless babies.
A few months ago things got real bad and just last week, nearing the breaking point I felt we had finally come to a crossroads of sleep deprivation and I felt in my heart that we had two, diametrically opposed options that would get us the sleep we needed. Full time bed sharing, or the dreaded cry-it-out.
Although my heart likes the idea of snuggling up with my boys every night, my body and brain really can't take it. I have my own sleep issues, and throwing a wildly flailing toddler and a desperately clinging baby to the mix are a sure-fire way to make sure that by about day three I'm the crankiest mummy on the block.
And so it seemed we had to go in the exact opposite direct. You see, when Oliver was waking up every 45 minutes I looked to gentle, in-between options. I read The No Cry Sleep Solution and I read The Baby Sleep Book, and although I appreciated the loving, gentle approach, the advice in each boiled down to creating a positive sleep environment and the importance of a bedtime routine - two measures I'd implemented practically before Oliver was born, and both methods that had little to no effect on his sleep.
Heading down the same road with Emmett it seemed time to take real action and after being reassured by a few trusted friends and great mums who had done it themselves, I picked up a copy of Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems by famous parenting villain Dr. Ferber from the library and read the whole thing in one night. And frankly, it surprised me.
Of course, the technique is exactly what I expected it to be - you allow your baby to cry in bed until he falls asleep, with check ins at prescribed intervals but it had seemed to me, at least in attachment parenting circles, that Dr. Ferber must be a cold and heartless monster who encouraged parents to allow their children to suffer alone for their own convenience. Having now read his book I feel like poor Dr. Ferber has been handed an unfair rep, and for the most part (assuming that this method actually works for us - we're on day two and I don't want to make any sweeping claims of victory just yet) I'm a convert. Here's why: