I parented today.

 

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…and it sucked.

 

This morning, my 2.5 year old son came downstairs, ready for breakfast. But he was cranky. And for no reason, he pushed his sister.

In that moment, I must admit, my patience bar was charged to 100%. I slept well and later than typical. I hadn’t seen my twins since the night before and was willing and able to put my best face on (unlike at night, when my battery runs out and I’m running on empty). Therefore, I didn’t let this go – I chose it, not realizing what I might be getting myself into.

After removing him from the situation, he proceeded to hit the dog hard, and then hit me. As I continued to put him back in the living room, I added that he needed to say he was sorry to his sister, to the dog, and to me. Yes, I know that’s a lot of apologies. But it felt right at the time and I went with it.

For the next 45 minutes he stayed in that living room. He wailed, he screamed, he shouted, “I want to HIT! I want to THROW THINGS!” His sister had her entire breakfast and he still wouldn’t apologize. Every few minutes I checked in on him – “Are you ready to say you’re sorry to C for pushing her?” “NO I’M NOT READY! I just want to eat!” I knew I couldn’t back down, and my patience was surprisingly still intact, even through the sobbing, “Let me out, Mommy!”

I held firm. Finally, almost an hour in, over the baby gate blocking him from us, he mumbled, “Sorry, Mommy.” “Sorry for what?” I asked. “Sorry for hitting you.” And he gave me a hug. Fabulous. 1 down, 2 apologies to go.

He wouldn’t apologize to the others even after I told him how proud I was that he did the right thing and apologized to me, and that he could be eating breakfast right now. Stubborn, stubborn. But finally – finally, he did it. He apologized to C, he apologized to the dog. Success!

Unfortunately, the meltdown didn’t end there. It was time now to pick out his bib and the one he wanted was dirty. I sat with him in the den, surrounded by other bibs he could choose and after screaming and throwing himself on the floor, he laid on a dog bed and calmed himself. 10-15 minutes more passed. And finally, he chose a bib.

He was ready for breakfast now, an hour and 15 minutes later. He pulled back his chair, and…..couldn’t get the straps “right”. Didn’t want to climb in himself. Didn’t want me to put him in. Didn’t want Daddy to put him in. Wanted to eat cereal and milk on the floor. (Answer: no.) More screaming, sobbing, and the threat of a hit.

And then – he let me put him in his chair. Except there wasn’t enough cereal for his liking. He typically puts it in the bowl himself but this time he wanted me to do it. Until I did it. Then he wanted me NOT to do it. So I dumped it on the table (no milk, yet). More screaming. Attempts at hitting. I ignored him and his hand hit the table, hard.

Finally, I said, “Would you like a piece of pear?” Yes, he did. Two bites of pear in, the switch flipped – all better. He ate, and he ate, and he ate.

The rest of the day has been fine.

I’ve learned a few lessons after this morning.

1)My son is sensitive to his food and sleep needs. I suppose he got that one from me. When he’s tired or hungry, he can be a bear. I knew that he just needed to eat, and that once he did he would be much better, but I couldn’t let him get away with hitting and pushing. I chose to allow this to continue instead of backing down, which I don’t always do.

2)I can be a good mom. Look, after spending 7 hours a day with 24 5th graders, I come home exhausted, with the patience bar mighty low. Too low. I frequently put the twins to bed and think, “I sucked at mom-ing tonight.” Lacking patience isn’t the kind of parent (or teacher) I want to be, yet it frequently is. The allure of a Sunday with my family, of sleeping an hour later, and being with my children in the morning as opposed to just the evening made all the difference.

And I have to admit – it felt good, when it was finally over, knowing I did the right things. That I didn’t back down, that I remained calm. That B did, eventually, do what he needed to do when I wasn’t sure he ever would.

3)Lastly, parenting is hard. Parenting, I’ve realized, isn’t the goodnight hugs, the “I love you, Mommy”‘s , the sensory bins, the playdough spaghetti, the book reading. Those are the perks that come with having children, the caretaking, the loving. The best parts, for sure.

No, parenting is the worst part of having children. Making decisions and not knowing if they are the right ones. Getting in an uncomfortable, crappy situation with your children and finding your way out. Finding patience when there’s none. I suppose it’ll continue for many, many years. Curfew fights, refusing to let them take the car out into the snow (pulled that one from my own history book), dating, drinking, doing well in school. Oh, and toddler meltdowns. These are hard issues that require a lot from us, and this, now, is what I believe parenting really is.

Today, I made it. Today, I parented.

 

How do you handle a toddler who hits?

We had a lovely birthday weekend for the twins. Their actual birthday was last week, and my husband and I kept it low key with some ice cream during the hot day and a cupcake and singing at night. While he was at work, we also decorated t-shirts and attempted to find library books about birthdays, but couldn’t locate a good one for their age group. Any recommendations?

And then this weekend we had a small party that was nice and relaxing. I did a rainbow theme and loved how it came out, and will write more about that in a future post. The twins did well with all the people and honestly – we haven’t even opened presents yet. We’re giving them a few a day and they are fine with that.

So besides that, age 2 for us is markedly different than 1. Both of them are so strong willed and opinionated, yet loving, silly and smart. I’m looking forward to sort of charting and updating on how very different they are from a year ago, or really, even three months ago. But for now, I’m at a new parenting challenge roadblock – discipline.

There are many things that seem to come natural to me with regard to parenting the twins. Discipline is not one of them. And we need something in this house, because B is now hitting. B used to hit a long time ago. He was still a baby. He was hitting and staring at his hands like he just figured out how they could slap something. That was not malicious, for the most part. He did get frustrated with his lack of language, and so this was another reason for the hitting. It was easy to handle – we would just tell him a firm “NO, we don’t hit” and then redirect with a new toy. The hitting passed after a month or so and that was that. And of course, once our Early Intervention services got going and B started talking more, he became an extremely loving, affectionate boy. And to be clear, in public – this is the shyest boy who won’t even speak a word. At home, he tries to take the leadership position.

But about three weeks ago or so, the old B started to emerge. It’s not his language, because that has taken off. (He said, “B fold orange diaper” this morning and “Mommy loves B” last night, for a few examples.) He happens to have very little patience, very little determination to do a task. If he’s playing with something and he gets frustrated, he throws the toy out of anger, until I remind him to ask me calmly for help, which he does right away. He melts down multiple times a day. Instead of him matter-of-factly saying, “No”, like he did a long time ago, now he’s screaming, “No!!!!” He screams for Mommy to help him wash his hands, when only Daddy is available. He screams when Mommy wakes him in the morning, when it’s Daddy he wants. He screams when C gets to do ______ first (going down the stairs, washing hands, getting picked up out of the crib, you name it), even though we switch back and forth every time, which of course he’s too young to recall.

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See, they do play nice together sometimes!

That last one – C’s doing the same thing. They fight to go first for EVERYTHING. And I make it “fair”, or fair enough, but they can’t tell the difference. C’s got a few of her own little nuances – demanding that B do everything she does, include take a drink of water or play with the same toy. And of course her desire to do EVERYTHING herself, so much that if you help at ALL to put on her shoe (you know, because you’re in a rush), she screams “self!!!” and takes her shoe off and starts over.

I suppose then, we’ve hit the “terrible two’s”. The demanding, absolutely exhausting two’s, about as tiring as it was with newborns. And I can muster the strength through it all, except for the hitting from B.

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Is a time-out the right, efficient, smart response for a two-year old who hits maliciously? Like, swing back his arm in a fit of rage and clock you in the face while you’re holding him? Because it was that incident where right then and there I realized, this is past the distraction age. This requires  – something. So I picked a time-out spot on the fly, put him down and explained what time out was and why he was there. He sat for a minute or two, I came back over, reminded him again why he was there and had him apologize and give hugs and we moved on. But – I’m not sure it was effective. I’ve never been crazy about making children apologize because it won’t be genuine, but it kind of just came to me in that moment. He’s been to time out about 6 or 7 times since and I’m just not sure….it works for him. All of a sudden he’s in tune to people/animals fighting. He’s saying “fight”, “hit”, “bite” all the time.

I guess it’s sort of a controversial topic, and of course there are mothers who don’t need time out because they have laid back, easy children. Which is C. She’s never tried to be mean purposely, ever. And that’s how I was as a kid, which is why I don’t really know what I’m doing. But B needs – something. I don’t want to come across too hard, because I don’t believe he will benefit from that, it’s just modeling the same behavior from him, and plus, it won’t be genuine coming from me. But I don’t want to be too soft either. I’m really just not sure what to do.

Finally, I spend time thinking about where B finds his success, as I’d rather guide him towards success then set him up in a situation he will fail. He thrives with tasks (putting away the groceries, carrying the stool into the bathroom, emptying the dishwasher). He loves new toys he’s never seen. He loves cars and trucks and things that spin. He enjoys sensory play, except when it’s slimy.He loves to be outside, and he loves to move and jump and bounce and run. He loves my attention. “Mommy, play cars please?” “Mommy, play food please?” But I have another child too, and I need to keep her needs in mind as well. I can’t please him all the time. Multiple children problems.