Wednesday, December 23, 2009

the next stage

Things have gotten hard again lately. I don't know exactly what's changed; perhaps several things all slammed together. Clark has certainly turned into a toddler full on. He'll be two in March and my goodness. He just screams and screams and screams and wants things and doesn't get his way and screams. It makes me nutso. He also wants to be carried all the time, all 30 pounds of him, and when my back is bothering me and I tell him he has to walk or I have a basket of laundry in my arms he just falls to pieces. Dire. So that's one thing.

The other major thing is Frances. She's really really testing limits now, trying to figure out where she has control and where she doesn't. She'll just say no. NO.


When she throws a toy across the room and I ask her to pick it up. When I try to get her to use the bathroom before nap. When it's time to get on her shoes or coat. When I ask her to give me the screwdriver. When it's time to come to the table for dinner. When it's time to take a nap or go to bed or get in the car or the bath or the bed. Okay, maybe it's not quite as bad as all that, but it's bad. What's different about this from the two-year-old NOs (which I'm experiencing at the exact same time w/ Clark) is that the things he says no to are things he doesn't have a choice about: changing his diaper, getting his hands wiped after he's plunged them in his yogurt, those types of things. The things she says no to are things I can't possibly physically make her do if she really doesn't want to.

Which makes the battle we're having very interesting.

It also means I have to think through what I want to get out of this and how to go about it. I mean, I could break her will. I could lock her in her room when she won't go to bed. But that's no good. That's not the kind of parent I want to be, not the kind of relationship I want to have with her. I don't want her to think of me as the line in the sand, the rule enforcer, the thing against which she has to push in order to be her own self. Sometimes I have the energy or wherewithall and I get creative and step out of the battle. Night before last at bedtime when she wanted to go downstairs with her armful of babies I suggested that we make a bed for them in her closet so they could get some rest for tomorrow too. She actually turned around in the hallway and came back for that one. It was that same night that, when she got out of bed to start in on her list of delay tactics, I just sort of ignored her. I knew a battle would be painful and certain, so I continued putting sheets on the guest bed, folding laundry, cleaning up the kitchen. I refused to fight her, but I also refused to entertain her. She followed me around and wanted to help but I wouldn't let her... told her it was not time for her to help with the laundry because she was supposed to be in bed. The goal was to bore her to bed. At one point when I was doing the laundry and watching tv she said, 'I'm going to go bother Daddy" which I thought was a fine idea. He was going through bills and was certain to not let her slow him as well. I wouldn't let her take out any of her toys (again because she was supposed to be asleep, not playing w/ toys) but she did pull things out of her dress up bin and decorate herself when I wasn't looking. Of course, she didn't actually go to bed until after 9pm. What to do?

This is what parents mean when they say you have to pick your battles. I could fight with her all day long, about nearly everything. One thing I'm wrestling with is time out. She won't stay in time out anymore. So I've been holding her. I don't know how I feel about physically restraining her this way, but I can't see the other option. I just sit with her, calm, and I wait until the time is up.

Right now she thinks that I'm against her. (Which I sometimes am.) It's made me wonder recently if I say no to her too often, if she feels like I say it to her all day long. No, you can't play with that, no don't put barrettes on the dog's ears that hurts him, please put the yowling cat down, no let's not get out the paints right now while Clark is awake, no don't touch the christmas tree ornaments, no standing on the kitchen table, on and on. Also, she still wants me to dress her and help her go to the toilet and sometimes feed her, all of which she can do very well on her own, if a little more slowly. So two things: perhaps I can find ways to stop saying no so often, and rather than respond in the negative as a reflex, I can think up (before hand) things that she can do that she'll find fun and suggest those instead. Or I can just stop being so anal and let her do some of them. And second, I want to encourage her to do more by herself, want her to feel independent. Perhaps then she won't need to fight me so often to prove how independent she is.

Then I wonder, as I always do, how much of this is just a necessary stage that will occur and then pass no matter now I respond?

ALSO! I'm going to start doing more crafts with them. I know I've said this before, but this time I mean it. Crafts can solve all kinds of problems.


elizabeth said...

If it helps at all Wiley's going through the NO thing too. And it's a NO with attitude. I ignore it when I can, redirect him, or (since time out stopped working here, too) take something away (then ignore the tantrum that comes with that).

Cali said...

Thanks, E. It does help. I've been trying the taking things away route which I sometimes feel fine about and sometimes feel like a tyrant. It's hard being a parent.