Friday, July 3, 2009

no maternal dean's list for me

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?


elizabeth said...

hey cali, i appreciate your honesty here. I have these moments, too. like today, i, ugh, told wiley to shut up, when he came racing upstairs just as i had gotten archer to sleep. this was after asking him nicely, quietly, calmly, repeatedly to whisper or be quiet for just a few more minutes while I finished with archer. it's absolutely something i continue to work on, to not lose my temper, or when i do to not be such an asshole, but i'm human and flawed, too. and i try to use it positively, as a model of how TO behave, like later i apologized to wiley for saying that and talked to him about how it was a really bad thing to say, etc. that way, i hope i can show him that we all have flaws, lose our temper, get angry, etc. but what's important is what comes next and keeping on trying to improve as a life long process. And, it's true, we don't beat our kids, tie them to trees, or solicit them for sex, so even a few yelling, screaming, storming off incidents will be forgotten and do little to no damage.

Paige said...

Cali, I too was thinking of how much I appreciate your honesty and how brave you are to blog about it. I'm definitely in the same boat as you and Elizabeth - what I dislike most about my parenting is when I lose my temper and yell or whatever - makes me so mad at myself bc then I know that's what Ozzy will model - I've seen him react in ways that I know I do and it's not good. So a few comments -
-keep trying!
-think about the situation later and decide on a course of better action for the next time it happens
-I read somewhere that anger is really a code for other emotions - why exactly did the particular situation make you angry, and what were possible underneath emotions; sometimes just thinking about it this way helps me.
-I think keeping their neural development in the front of you brain is good - you're right, they're just learning impulse control, etc etc.
-one think I've been thinking of doing is making a big sign that says COMPASSION and taping it to the living room wall. Maybe it would help me take a deep breath and pause for a moment before I reacted.
Anyway, you just gotta hang in there and remember this IS just a phase.

Paige said...

Oh, and I wanted to comment about the different dynamic between you and F and you and C. I wonder if it's bc you wanted her so desperately and it was so hard, and now that she's here, you're almost scared of her disliking you? I say this only bc I think I have some of this going on with Ozzy - I'm just so thankful he's alive and he's ok despite being so preemie. I saw a show about this issue with twins, who are usually preemie. But also, I think some of it is probably temperament, your fit with F vs with C - some people are just able to push your buttons - my middle brother always was, but my older brothers not so much. I've often wondered why and when you told me about temperament and matches btwn parent and child, I wondered if there is the same issues btwn siblings.

Cali said...

thank you thank you my friends for your comments and support. it was actually hard for me to be honest about this here but this kind of honesty is what i want this blog to be about so i went for it. i find that talking to other moms and hearing about similar ways in which they struggle is absolutely the most helpful thing i can do for myself. we fear exposing these parts of our mothering, sometimes with good reason, but mostly because, i believe, of the unrealistic expectations we and society in general have of ourselves as mothers. more about that in my next post, i think. again, elizabeth and paige, thank you!

Coen Family said...

I also want to thank you! I go through moments of rage every day when I am with the kids by myself. It's not something I've talked about with anybody for fear my friends will think I am a horrible mother and not want to be my friend anymore (and I have so few). I thought maybe there weren't very many people experiencing the same feelings I do. At least I know I'm not alone and it's more common than I think! I sure do miss you!

Jeri said...

Thanks, You and your fellow commenting mom's validate that I am not alone. My daughter has been pushing my buttons very early on. She is eleven and was a nine week premmie. She came into this world to a high stress setting and I have felt that I am one step behind the eight ball on most days. My son who is eight, pushes a whole different set of buttons, but only recently causing undesirable behavior in me. Mostly yelling and mostly when we are rushed or at bed time. Mommy needs to get on the horizontal track asap.
Anyhow, I have a lot of other stressors going on too. Husband, in-laws (live-in mostly), own business, and a 40 hour a week regular job. Needless to say is can be crazy and having a difficult child to boot. My road has been hectic and the only thing that has helped me is neurofeedback. I am calmer and I can handle the stressors better and I find that I am not in the reactive stage when it comes to the my children. The yelling has gone down and I am not having to say I'm sorry so much. My mom has noticed and that is saying a lot. I just hope that my relationship with my children can be saved. It is not totally lost but I am sure it was headed that way. It has helped me so much in all areas of my day to day life, but then again exercise may have helped to. But who has the time.

lefty said...

Hi, Cali. My children are a little older now (four and six) and I remember going through what you are. Exactly. My first one has a different temperment: wiry, challenging, anxious, highly verbal. My second is much easier going. Though I have to say that when my second went through the same developmental stages as her older sister, I've learned to lighten up and react differently.

Like potty mouth and talking back: when my oldest went through it, it pushed my buttons to the highest, as I felt disrespected and also mortified that mean or distasteful words would escape her two- or three-year old mouth. I did soap in the mouth, then switched to a drop of vinegar. She eventually stopped. Then when my second child started it, I ignored it and also wasn't offended. I saw it as a stage that eventually, whether with my "intervention" or not, would go away. I think watching your child, and even more, yourself go through their stages, it gives you a little more wisdom (hopefully) for the next time around--even if their personalities are different.

But it is a challenge. Kudos for not spanking. I did spank; I don't now. But I think it has more to do with the fact that they can reason, understand consequence with toys or privelidges taken away, or other things that work, and I don't get so worked up into feeling like I need to spank. I grew up with an occasional spank and don't feel it is the worst thing--but there are better things. Fine line. I'm not politically correct, I guess. Though I think political correctness is silly.

Anyway, back to you: don't beat yourself up. You sound like a terrific mom (and I believe you know you are, at least sometimes), you just have moments like everybody else. The fact that you analyze your parenting skills and tactics, for the benefit of your family, makes you a great mom, because you care, because you try to improve. I feel like children grow up while we as grown-up humans, learn to be parents. Does that make sense? I guess I'm just trying to say that nobody is a perfect parent from the start. It's a process. And you are right on track. Keep it up!