31 October 2010

Challenges

I was not at my best this weekend.

We ended on a high note, which is great; Halloween was a total blast even if Riley refused to wear his costume. (Much to my surprise, no one asked him why he wasn't in costume or what his mismatched sweatsuit + Crocs was supposed to be.) But the less than 24 hours between Saturday afternoon and around 9 a.m. on Sunday were a study in Poor Parenting Decisions.

We went to a super birthday party on Saturday afternoon at an indoor gym. Maddie and Riley both really enjoyed it, Riley especially. When it came time to leave, Riley threw a classic tantrum that involved yelling at me, screaming, kicking and hitting me, and generally making a spectacle of himself. It's never fun for that to go down in public, but it just continued when we got to the car. He spent most of the ride home yelling at me that he didn't love me. He's been doing this a lot lately, telling me he doesn't love me. I'm sure he's testing me or acting out of some kind of fear that it perhaps *I* don't love *him*; most of the time when he tells me he doesn't love me, I get a fiendish delight in telling him that even if he doesn't love me, I still love him and always will and nothing he can say will make me stop. This is true, and it's what I told him on Saturday, but the truth is that even if I know he's testing something and pushing something, it still hurts to hear those words come out of his mouth. Hearing it nonstop for 15 minutes pushed me right over the edge and I ended up yelling at him and then marching both him and Maddie up to the house where we all cried and blustered around for a good long while. Lame. Oh, and I forgot the most ridiculous part of it all when, spent and annoyed, I took a stand about fruit leather consumption. Because THERE'S SOMETHING THAT MATTERS IN THE LONG RUN. So stupid.

This morning, Maddie and I got into a serious power struggle over her pierced ears. She wants to let them close up (she just got them pierced about three months ago) and I was, for reasons that are not clear to me, totally angry and upset about this and basically ended up holding her down to try to get a pair of earrings in her ears. Which didn't work because one ear appears to be infected and so guess what? IT TOTALLY HURT HER when I tried to jab an earring through there. Gar. Felt like a total Worst Mom of the Year/General Bitch combo when I figured out what was going on. Not to mention that her ears are just that: her ears. If she actually doesn't want them pierced right now, it's just not a big deal. The funny part is that now she has one earring in (that she refuses to take out) and one earring-less ear that she won't let me near.

I told my dad after all of this was said and done that I'm not sure why it seems to be taking me numerous painful lessons to truly understand that power struggles don't work. They are completely ineffective, and I need to choose not to engage. It's a waste of everyone's time and it reinforces negative behavior and teaches bad choices for one and all. It's just bad, bad, bad, bad news. Ugh. Maybe this was enough to drive it home.

There were plenty of great things about the weekend: having my dad in town, getting the au pair's room all set up, spending time with friends, watching football, the whole Halloween gig. But the bad stuff was really bad. My reactions were so out of proportion to the situation. I've tried to watch for patterns in my irrational reactions, and so far I've noticed that they are for sure worse (a) first thing in the morning (I really do need coffee to be functional), (b) when I'm under time pressure (trying to get out the door, trying to get to bed on time, etc.), or (c) when I'm multitasking to the nth degree and Maddie or Riley just won't let up with the questions and demands. Knowing this helps . . . I guess. Mostly it makes me aware enough to warn the kids that my fuse is short, but the awareness seems to do little to push me towards more control.

Life has been quite unstable for us for the past couple of months: the sudden school change, the loss of one nanny, the search for a temporary replacement, the loss of the replacement, the application to the au pair program, the insanity at work. Our au pair arrives on Thursday. While I know that getting her settled in will be yet another transition for us, I'm hopeful that this transition will bring stability. We could use some of that right now.

Happy Halloween. Maddie was a fairy; Riley as a "regular person" in possession of a dino costume. I'm going with two simple rules about the candy haul this year: 1. No candy until after breakfast, and 2. candy can only be eaten at the dining room table. But once the kids have had their breakfast, they can eat to their hearts' content without asking permission. I tried policing the candy scene last year and talk about power struggles. That particular instance is Lesson Learned. I wish I was always that quick of a learner.

21 comments:

designermama said...

We had a verybadhorrible Friday where I yelled many times and ended feeling like the worst mom ever. Thank you for sharing your not soooo super parenting moments, it makes dealing with all this easier knowing other people struggle a bit too. I have also learned that coffee is NOT a option.

BiancaW said...

It blows my mind that I can get it SO wrong sometimes. I look back at the way I have spoken/shouted/gone mental at the kids, and wonder how on earth I thought that would be a good way of handing the situtaion.

Take heart that you are a) Not alone and b) that you get it right most of the time - so don't beat yourself up too much about the times you get it wrong.

X

Slim said...

"Oh, and I forgot the most ridiculous part of it all when, spent and annoyed, I took a stand about fruit leather consumption. Because THERE'S SOMETHING THAT MATTERS IN THE LONG RUN."

I laughed when I read this -- laughed and cringed, because hmm, that sounds familiar and yet I just can't place it SHUT UP.

Michelle said...

I have experienced many similar moments when I am later kicking myself for my reaction to my kids' behaviors. I found that a lot of parenting books were focused on the kids and discipline techniques, which was not what we needed. We had/have discipline techniques that the kids respond to well; it is that I don't always respond well in the situations. So I tried finding a book that would help ME deal with parenting better, and after a lot of misses, I found one I really like (even though I don't like the title). It is Mommy Mantras by Casarjian and Dillon (http://www.betterworldbooks.com/mommy-mantras-id-0767923804.aspx). I helps me to regroup when I feel myself moving toward an irrational response to one of our kids. Perhaps you will find it useful too.

CV said...

I would totally have gotten just as frustrated with N if I'd agreed to pierce her ears and then she'd changed her mind. I doubt they're old enough to understand how 'permanent' it's supposed to be - but I would have hit the roof, too.

I'm sorry you had a tough weekend. And I envy that you've decided to not care about the candy consumption. I'm stuck policing it this year because I've already stated the rule is 1 per day. (Of course last night she got 2 pieces and after that she said, "Mom, I have a question for you but I just want you to know that it's totally fine with me if the answer is yes or no." and then she asked for another piece. And guess what? I let her have it! So I suppose 1 per day is really going to mean 3 - 5 per day. I should just let her eat it all in two days and get sick, rather than reinforce that the rules don't really matter. Oh well.)

Also - a new technique I've been using that has worked wonders (though not fail-proof, for sure) is that I've figured out a currency that matters for N is "minutes" at bedtime. I've told her that if she gets an answer from me that would usually cause her to whine and complain and her response is, instead, "okay, mom!" then she earns an additional minute at bedtime (minutes reflect how long I stay with her after the lights go out, she's generally asleep within 10 but I try to leave the room as soon as she's fading. She really has no idea how many minutes she's entitled to, so it's okay if she's earned more than she can use.. she's just thrilled to be told she's earning something for good behavior.) When she starts to whine about something I say, "Aw, that's not going to earn you a minute." and try to sound disappointed. And she'll generally say, "I mean't 'okay, mom!'... do I still get a minute?"

I'm sure my fancy new technique will only work for a little while before she's on to me, but every extra bit of sanity counts. I know the name of the game is trying (unsuccessfully) to stay one step ahead of her.

Not sure if my idea could work for you - and now I've hijacked your comments instead of just emailing you. Sorry. Good luck. You're a good mom. You will all survive.

django's mommy said...

I'm all for self-aware parenting, but hell, as a single (double?) parent, sometimes I have a bad day. And when I haven't had my coffee and I'm running on little sleep, and the routine gets effed up? Sometimes we yell about the fruit leather. I don't necessarily think it's a good life lesson for kids to think their parents aren't human and don't lose it every now and then. Maybe I'm just rationalizing, but I like to believe permanent scarring does not occur just because I have a bad day every once in a while. But maybe I'm just irrationally cranky right now.

Pam said...

You are not alone, the power struggles with my almost 5 year old are endless...Sigh. He also tells me he doesn't love me, only Daddy. I flip out way too much on him too. Trust me, I stopped checking my mailbox for The Mother of the Year award a long time ago..
Hang in there.

everythingness said...

Isn't it funny that I look to you for lessons on how to be a great mom, especially when you feel like the worst mom? You see yourself and your children so clearly. Thank you for posting.

Shosh said...

sounds like my morning today. youre right though, about what causes it - its always worse when im tired, when we're in a rush, and when im stressed, which i was this morning because my baby was screaming while i was trying to get the other kids out the door for school. and i yelled. and i feel about it now. yelling and power struggles simply dont work, but for some reason, i keep going back to them!! i do see myself getting better, though, and yelling less often. thanks for writing this today, i needed it! and good for you about the candy - youre right, its not worth the fight.

Laurel said...

I had a very similar experience last week, in front of another mom (it was a playdate), which always sucks a little extra. At least she was very understanding.

More and more, lately, it's become clear to me how my parenting takes a dive whenever I'm (more) tired. Coffee or no, though coffee is definitely necessary. If I get to bed by 11:30, I have a much better chance of heading off bad behavior at the pass, of using creative parenting or of being able to take a step back and relax. If I don't, it's back to the power struggles, yelling, physical solutions (not spanking, I mean, but picking up the kid and carrying them somewhere while they're tantruming the whole way), etc.

Of course, it's not always easy to get the sleep I know I need. Long story short, I'm right there with you. (And I'm not a single parent either, so as always my hat's off to you.)

kathy a. said...

hi. i don't usually comment, but think you have some great insights, are a GREAT mom, and you shouldn't be too hard on yourself when meltdowns happen.

my kids are so much older, young adults now, but each and every event you mentioned sounds really familiar! sometimes i used to say that mommy needs a time-out RIGHT NOW to cool off. :) [yes, i put myself in time-out. them, too, at times. over the long-term, they came to see some cooling-off time as a good thing.]

i'm sure you know this, but things like riley's mean words happen [a] when a kid is over-tired/over-wired, and [b] because he *does* trust you will always love him; you are his safety zone, when he's reached his limit.

the power struggles are an ongoing lesson; the issues just change all the time. but you're working it, and trying, and that is all we can do. you're doing it well. xoxo

Mama Mama Quite Contrary said...

Oh boy... I could have written this. I think Vivi and Riley are acting from the same playbook. (I get a lot of "I don't love you anymore" or "I hate you" or the best of all, "I am going to kill you in real life!") My response is usually the same as yours but the other day when she told me that she hated me and was never going to speak to me again, I shouted back, "Good!!!!!!!" Even when you know your triggers, it is really hard in the moment not to engage. I wish I were better at it.

Caroline said...

Give up on the earring..it is sucha smallitem in a big world...so what if she has one earring....you can get it pierced again. Try and not swaet the very very small stuff...it will make you crazy....I have learned in retrospect

Watercolor said...

My mom's rule was no ear piercing until we were old enough to take care of them ourselves. Which for her, meant 16, lol. Let it close up. When she's a lot older, she can get it done again. hugs!!

Jay Cosnett said...

Been there, done that, more times than I'd care to admit to a n y b o d y... Ick, ick, ick. Stupid Parent Tricks? Girl, I got you BEAT, so dontevenworryaboutit... ;-)

Clover said...

So totally could have written that post- slightly different circumstances, same issues.

Mizasiwa said...

I unfortunatly dont have time to read all the comments so im sure someone else on here may have already suggested this but for the last two years had terrible power struggles with my son and was constantly in a state of 'what a bad mom I am' i landed up in therapy and she suggested I bring him in for play therapy - anyway long story short she taught me this really neat trick that for soem reason id never thought about or at least my fuse was too short to properly allow for it but i needed to give him time to adjust to the situation change. (I never realised that i needed this extra tiem too!) it took me ages to learn this really it was just so hard but we couldnt go shopping with him or to friends EVER becouse the thougth of leaving freaked me out so badly i rather not go. Once i learned to do this the tantrums pretty much stopped and so did the 'mama hating' it still depends on how tired he is though... I think your doing a great job though so keep the strenght things are going to get so great before you know it!!

Angela said...

So sorry you had some really hard moments over the weekend. You've all been going through some changes and transitions, so it's totally understandable that these moments will happen, though it's so hard when they do. Know exactly how you feel when you had some not so great parenting moments. My son always had a really tough time during transition from one activity to another...major meltdowns, screaming, kicking and telling me he hated me...fun times! It does get better and I had to monitor my own reaction to his outbursts so I didn't escalate the situation...gee, wonder where he gets his temper from? He's nine years old now, and he is so much better in controlling his temper, though he still has his moments.
You are a really great Mom, you are doing the absolute best that you can do. I really hope the new au pair is fantastic and all goes well.

Keen said...

Glad the highs were high! Sorry about the rough parts, those bad parenting moments are so unbelievably exhausting. Can't wait to hear more about your au pair experience, hope it ultimately means you'll have more time for you!

Fairlington Blade said...

Ah, Snick.

I managed to precipitate a major meltdown this morning. Took the boys to preschool and things were great. Today's breakfast (oatmeal with maple syrup) went down great. All is going well.

I sent the guys to the bathroom to wash their hands while I dropped off their backpacks and jackets. Came back to find them fooling around and got them settled.

Except that Secondo hadn't washed his hands yet and that precipitated a major meltdown. I couldn't send him into class in tears, but keeping him away from class was not helping. Felt like bad dad.

Sigh…

BB

Elle said...

Wow, rough times! I know at one time you were seeking support in therapy. Was it helpful, and are you still doing it?