I get a C-. Today and yesterday, though today we still have after-nap-before-dinner to go and perhaps I can do some last minute cramming and pull my grade up. Again I think of my friend who works in labor & delivery who always looks perplexed when I chastise myself for my parenting skills in her presence. Yes, I know she regularly witnesses truly bad parenting, births of unwanted children, neglect I wish she hadn't told me about. There are moments when I realize that simply providing my children with basic things makes me a good parent: food, clothing, nap schedules, stability, lack of screaming in the house, attention, and love. Those last two are crucial--there are many many children who don't get any attention. At all. From anyone.
Generally, however, I'm not grading on a curve. Or maybe I am, and the student body only includes the moms who are, in fact, providing all the basics. But now you want to know what I've done, don't you? Sigh.
Sometimes I just cannot keep my cool. Sometimes White Trash Mama (as my friend Alison calls her) comes out and does stupid things like this morning when Frances swung to hit me at the kitchen table and I jerked her breakfast away. (If you're gonna hit mama then you don't get to eat. So there.) Or yesterday when she hit Clark with a plastic block and I yanked her paci out of her mouth and stormed off with it. Writing this, these things seem pretty minor but when it's happening they come from a place of internal rage, something out of my control--not the way I want to parent. These responses are not helpful. They are in no way effective. If anything, they teach her just the opposite of what I want--they teach her to react physically in negative ways. It's VERY hard right now for me to keep in mind that many of the things she does she simply cannot help. She has so little impulse control... we're not born with it. She has to learn it, and she needs my help. Yesterday I wanted so badly to spank her and nearly called Mitch to come home and relieve me, but instead I turned on the television which turned out to be a very very good idea. (It's not infrequently that I think of the TV as a great tool for things like calming tempers, getting dishes done, eating dinner with my husband in peace. Yes yes it can quickly become a liability and there's a fine line to walk, but still.)
I beat myself up a lot about it all. Don't know how to stop doing that either.
One thing that interests me endlessly about this dynamic with Frances is that I never never never have felt this kind of impatience and frustration with Clark. Why is that? Is it because he's a second child and I've gotten more relaxed about things? Do I just have more patience now? I don't think that's it. I think he simply doesn't do the things that push my buttons. But, I mean, they're both children; they've both gone through the same developmental stages. You'd think he'd do the same irritating things she did. Or you might think it's just her age and I only have to wait and he'll drive me nuts too. But my frustrations with Frances didn't start with the terrible twos--no no. She's been able to push my buttons since she was about 6 months old. I have no idea what on earth she could have been doing then to irritate me, but it's the truth.
My only conclusion is that they have different temperaments and that Clark just isn't as impatient, as demanding, doesn't insist on control as much as Frances. Oh she's going to be a difficult teenager. No reason to worry about that now... Instead, I need to find an exorcist to rid me of this other woman who takes over my body. I wonder if I should give her a name?