Monday, December 7, 2009

Just like me

Today was one of those days. The bad ones. The ones that rattle me. The ones that make me wonder if I am really cut out for this motherhood gig.
As much as I love these kids, I sometimes wonder if I'm not doing them more harm than good with my parenting approach. I mean, I try, but I may not be any good at this. I may be letting them get away with the wrong stuff, and making a big deal of the little things. I'm not sure that I'm prepared to help young impressionable boys develop into functional adults. Hell, in many ways I'm probably not such a functional adult.
I see some of my own worst traits in these kids. I want to protect them from those traits, but how can I when I am still trying how to protect myself? And this panics me. I don't really want them to end up like me. Then sometimes I'm worried that in my quest to keep them from suffering the same faults I have, that maybe I push them too far the other direction. Maybe I don't respect their own natures enough because that nature is a bit too much like mine. I don't know.
All I know is that today was one of those day. The ones in which back to back tantrums bring me to tears and all I can manage to do is to keep it together long enough to get home and fall apart in the comfort an privacy of my own home.
It started with karate. The boys have been taking classes on Saturday mornings, but the last class before Thanksgiving Little Dog refused to join, then had a tantrum when class ended and he "missed it". Today was much the same. After much thought, I'd already decided that maybe he's too young. Maybe as much as I'd like him to participate in the class, and as much as he says he wants to, it might just be too much to ask of him. I talked to the guy who runs the school and told him I wanted to suspend Little Dog's enrollment until he was ready to come to class. The stress of coaxing him to join in the class is too much for me and if he isn't excited and ready to do it, then it might just be better to back off and let him lead. The Sensei agreed but also encouraged me to keep bringing Little Dog to class with Big Dog so he'd continue to acclimate to the class and environment and hopefully decide to participate sooner than later. After this discussion, the Sensei told me that Big Dog was doing so great in the class that he was ready to receive his karate gi. I agreed, even though I knew that this was likely to cause a problem for Little Dog because he really wants his gi too. But what could I do, hold Big Dog back because his little brother refused to take the class? And maybe, as much as I hate the idea of the sibling competition, just maybe seeing his brother get his gi would push Little Dog to do the classwork if he really wants the gi. Or if he doesn't care, then we could just move on. Unfortunately I underestimated the ferocity of the tantrum. It was one of those fits that could cause the world to tilt off its axis if allowed to continue too long. It certainly wasn't helped by Big Dog refusing to allow his brother to touch his new uniform or his taunting, "I got my karate clothes already. You need to work harder, I guess," comments. But I managed. I pulled my shit together and redirected, encouraged and empathised. After what felt like an eternity, we all calmed down and were able to get on with our day.
This was followed by a trip to the library at the request of the boys. I'm always up for encouraging reading, and I thought the soothing act of reading together would help right our day. And it did, for a while. But then Little Dog decided to run off, and Big Dog got kind of bossy with his little brother and before you know it, I have the kid on the floor at the reference desk yelling that he wanted to find his brother, not me and that I shouldn't have told him where Big Dog was. The librarian tried to intercede with an offer of a free sticker, which Big Dog warmed to immediately, but Little Dog rebuked completely. In the end I asked Big Dog to choose one for his brother as well and carried the still wailing Little Dog to the car. Unfortunately this was the wrong thing to do, again. Little Dog wanted to choose his own sticker, the one his brother chose was wrong. He'd be good, he pleaded and sobbed. I decided to negotiate. I figured that sometimes after a big disappointment, you need to feel like you won. I wanted Little Dog to feel like he was able to recover from the meltdown and that recovering made a difference. If he could calm down and use his words, we could go back and he could ask to choose his own sticker. He'd need to stay calm, and this would be all that we did when we went back. He agreed, and his mood lifted. He was fantastic at the do-over. I felt like one of those super moms who have their shit down. Though, I guess if I was one of them the initial meltdown would have been avoided altogether...nevermind.
Our last outing of the day was a few hours later. The boys got to decompress at home and I gave Little Dog all kinds of prepping for the playdate with a friend of his from school. As we left the house, he excitedly declared "This is going to be awesome!" with all the sincerest three-year-old enthusiasm I've ever seen. We were going to a local nursery that has an amazing Christmas display, including live reindeer and this year a camel! It started off well, and I got a few adorable photos of the kids, then Little Dog was done. He decided to start running off. He tore into the Christmas decoration display and knocked a glass ornament to the ground after I warned him not to play with it because it was breakable. I scooped up the breakage and marched to the cashier with him in tow to watch me pay for, then throw away the wreckage. Later, after running off several more times, and a tantrum that made the karate gi incident look minor, I told our friends we were going to have to go home. And all hell broke loose. I had to carry him to the car, he kept trying to twist and throw himself out of my arms and then screamed the entire way home. He once again begged to go back and be good, but I was spent. Unfortunately this was also our first playdate with this family, and I will probably never muster the courage to call them again after they witnessed the tornado that is Little Dog in full speed freak out mode. I'm too mortified to even consider it right now. He can be a great kid, but sometimes, on days like this, he is such a challenge. And even now, as I recount this, I remember what it was like to be a younger sibling, living in the shadow of an older sister who in my mind at least, walked on water. I work hard to give them each what they need, and help them communicate their frustrations and desires. Yet even now I remember thinking my mom loved my sister more when I was a kid. I can list times when I accused her of giving my sister preferential treatment, even in ways that would be spectacularly absurd, yet I sincerely believed it.
I guess it is only fitting that I'm now dealing with this same sibling competition in my own boys. It probably has to do with that worst possible curse of having a child that pays you back for your own childhood misdeeds by being exactly like you. I guess I should probably just say, Mom, Dad, I'm sorry and I'm surprised you never left me on the curb with the recycling (well apart from way back when, there was no curbside recycling. That may well have been my saving grace.)


Summer said...

I don't think even a super mom can avoid a melt-down when it's needed. Sounds like you did a great job about it though. (((HUGS)))

Fremont Mama said...

That exhausted me just reading it! I don't know a single mom who hasn't been through something similar (just maybe not all in the same day). Thanks for saying what we all feel.

Green said...

That sounds terrible. I have tons of thoughts on competition, but here are the very basics -

same sex siblings will automatically compete with each other more than boy/girl combos, as will twins


healthy competition is when you're competing against your prior best or when it's self-induced competition (look at that kid! I could do what he's doing!). unhealthy competition is when someone ELSE goads you into it.

So there's nothing wrong with Little Dog having to see Big Dog do something. Maybe it would help to tell LD that when he'd BD's age he'll be able to do it too, and pointing out when BD was the age LD is now, he couldn't have done what he just did.

Sorry the day sucked.

geekymummy said...

Sounds like a really tough one. It does sound like a pretty busy day, three outings. I know for R. two exciting things in one day is about all she can handle, and I'm in for trouble if I try to do too much, even if it is supposed to be fun.
Oh, and you are fab mum. If mum's whose kids have tantrums are poor parents then we are all bloody awful!
I try to take a leaf from my sisters book, she just carries on with whatever she needs to do even if one of her kids is screaming blue murder, completely ignores other peoples looks of disdain, and never considers it a poor reflection on her parenting.
I'm more like you though, I always think I must be doing something terribly wrong to have a child who can unleash such fury!

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