Once, out of boredom, I took one of those silly Facebook quizzes. You know, like “If you were a color, what color would you be?” and “What spirit animal are you?”. I took the “What kind of Mom are you?” quiz. And as I already knew, I’m the “perfectionist Mom”. Since Day 1, I have taken this parenting job so seriously, sometimes too seriously, that I want to be the VERY BEST I can be. Of course mistakes will be made – even on a daily basis (I let C touch a hot potato today without thinking, which was really dumb and I felt awful). But I have always held myself to an overly-high standard. It’s just the way I am. I do my best to know the topics and issues that my twins face in and out. If I don’t know something from my own upbringing or the experiences I have had while taking care of other people’s children, I will research the crap out of it until I can go to sleep knowing how I want to tackle a situation. It doesn’t mean it’ll always go smoothly, but at least I will have a plan. I’ve done this about switching to cloth diapers, sleeping training, sleep regressions, making my own baby food, introducing solids, sensory activities to do at home, hiring a nanny, etc. And now that we’ve really started “parenting” in this house, my husband and I are digging deep into our natural tendencies – how we think we should handle most situations that come up. We’ve been feeling pretty good about it.
Which is why I don’t like not knowing how to do something, when it comes to parenting. I don’t like being unsure. I don’t like being stumped.
See, I’m on the fence about how and when to say “no” to a toddler. A biting, hitting, screaming, reaching-for-everything toddler. Before B turned his toddler-ness up to 10, my gut motherly instinct always told me to use a firm “NO” for the serious things – any danger to himself or others, biting, hitting. But that’s it. When I said the word, I wanted him to be surprised and taken aback because it wasn’t said often. And maybe even cry. So that’s what we did. B started hitting and biting, and I started saying “NO”. I would lay him down on the floor slowly afterwards and ignore him for about 30 seconds while he cried and perhaps tried to hit or bite again. And it was all going smoothly.
But in the past few weeks, I’m finding myself saying “No”….too much. For me, it’s way too much. And I say it to both of them. If C takes a toy right out of B’s hands, I’m finding myself saying, “No, he had it first.”. Or when B darts into the rarely-open bathroom and heads for the toilet, shower, you name it: I’m saying, “No, come play out here.” Or when either of them writhes around on the changing table, threatening to take a dive as I’m holding them down to strap on a diaper, I’m saying, “No, I have to change your diaper.” But the volume of these “no”s are getting louder and louder. I feel like I’m starting to yell. A lot. And it’s just not the kind of Mom I want to be.
I want to be more patient, I want to redirect as I already do, but without the loud “no”. I want to save the “no”s for the serious things. I don’t like how I’m doing this a million times a day and I want to make a change. Because I do believe that children will eventually tune that sort of thing out. Like yelling. I’m not really a yeller. So why am I getting so frustrated? Eventually the twins will tune out my “no”s or my louder volume. It won’t make an impact when it really counts – like when someone is in danger.
To cut myself a little slack, I had heard a few times before that toddlers hear the end of a sentence you say – it makes sense to keep it simple. So if I say to B, “Don’t push your peas on the floor” – B heard “peas” and “floor” – which is where the rest of them will end up. I guess I thought that if I made it simple – with just a “no” – he’d get the message loud and clear without a bunch of extra words that at this age he doesn’t need. And that’s how it came to be that I say this word so often. I don’t like it. I’d prefer to focus my words in a positive light, like “Keep your peas on the tray” – but it’s just not how it’s coming out right now.
I’d like to start making a change, but I’m not sure what the right tactic is. More explanation? They’re too little. But how to keep it simple without using the word?
As a side crappy story – there was one instance today where I had to use the word. And it was terrible. B had been melting down over toys and my attention for about 15 minutes. I had tried to redirect many times and it just wasn’t working. Finally I decided to take them into the other room and read some books and quiet everyone down. Well as I was sitting down, C climbed in my lap. I picked up a book and apparently, B was still angry. As I held C, B clamped down on C’s arm so very hard and he wouldn’t let go. And I lost it. I screamed. I screamed the “no” that would be appropriate here, though not nearly at the volume I used. B screamed and cried hysterically. C screamed and cried hysterically. Mommy screamed and cried hysterically. There’s nothing worse than seeing your child in pain. I want both of my babies to be happy and healthy and it hurts when they hurt. I know B is frustrated by his lack of vocabulary and his sense of adventure. I know what he’s doing is normal. But it hurts even MORE when the pain your child is in is being caused by your other child. Emotions are twisted in so many directions. I wish I hadn’t lost it – but it was so upsetting to see one child hurt another. It was a bad bite. I’ve got a biter. And in that case, I did have to say “no”.
Only a few hours later (and after a nap), the babies had a ball at a playground and were all smiles. Yes, I have a biter. But on the flip side, he’s also a big-time kisser.