Wednesday, August 15, 2012

For When I Forget... Again

Sometimes, I lose my way.

Sometimes, I forget all the things I've read, learned, felt was right and worked hard to incorporate. Sometimes, I'm just stressed and busy and frustrated. Sometimes (at times too often), I'm not the parent I know I can be.

Believe it or not, the Pumpkin is now 5 and the Pookie is 3! Though I love these ages, they come with certain difficulties. (How's that for an understatement of the obvious?)

The Pumpkin went through some difficult developmental regressions at the end of the school year, but she has now made that magical leap forward in her thinking and acting. She is becoming a big kid. But she's at that edge where she wants to be a big kid and so capable, but also she does not want to be a big kid and do certain things. Luckily, she is at a stage where logic mostly works with her (I can hardly believe it, but it's true!). And I can indulge in some babying when she's feeling the need for it.

The Pookie is in that phase of 3 that Ames and Ilg wrote their book for: Your Three-Year-Old: Friend or Enemy? He is all about boundry pushing and testing the consequences. He's adorable and sweet and absolutely contrary. In fact, I started saying to him the nursery rhyme about Mary Mary Quite Contrary and reminded my husband that we sang the same song for the Pumpkin when she was this age. Up is down, black is white, and of course no is yes!

Here's a perfect example of his contrariness: I told the kids to wait on my brother-in-law's porch while I went to get their rain coats from the car because it was raining. My BIL tried to stop the Pookie from walking out from the cover over the porch, and the Pookie said, "It's not raining." As I walked back to the porch, my BIL told him it was raining. The Pookie walked into the rain, turned and looked at my BIL and insisted with a scowl on his face, "It's not raining." As it rained on him. As the drops of water literally fell on his head! Ugh! What do you do with that?

Apparently, what I do is get frustrated and snappy. I was at my inlaws without Londo, and I was trying to get a lot of work done over the weekend, watch the kids and spend time with my inlaws. I was low on sleep, but still trying to do it all.

I brought the kids to my mother-in-law's family reunion, where I didn't know most people, the only other kid close to their age was their 8-year-old cousin, there was a peanut-heavy dessert on the table and I was the only one with a strange accent. I am used to being the Yankee/city girl down at my inlaws, though I'm from the Mid-Atlantic, the suburbs of Washington DC. But I still notice the double takes I get when I open my mouth around more distant relatives.

So I was stressed. Tired. Concerned about the peanut allergy. Trying to entertain while keeping safe while keeping them in line. The kids did pretty well, but it ended poorly. The Pookie peed in his pants, minutes after I asked if he needed the potty. The Pumpkin did not stay where I told her to while I went to find something in the car to put the Pookie in (thankfully, I don't clean out my car much and I found an old pullup). Luckily she did not go near the food, but I was still frustrated.

I could go on. But the point is clear, I think. I was stressed and frustrated and snapped at the kids (quietly so the relatives wouldn't raise an eyebrow), and we went home early. Later that night, after the kids were in bed and I had done some work, I was hanging out with my brother-in-law. I bemoaned the family reunion and the frustrations of dealing with the kids. He was all sympathy and let me vent. But he said something offhand that gave me a eureka momement.

My BIL asked, "Well, did they at least have fun?"

I felt myself snap out of a fog. I was still for a moment. Then I looked at my BIL and answered, "You know what? They did. They really did."

Isn't that the point of summer break and going to family reunions and, well, of being a kid? Have fun. Sure, I still need to keep them safe. I definitely need to hold the line when they push their boundries. Of course I need to teach them how to behave and how to listen and follow directions. I also need to let them have fun. Not only that, I need to have fun with them! I need to remember that Playful Parenting works so well with my kids. I need to remember that when I get frustrated, things only get worse. I need to remember to loosen up, let go of the stress, separate my frustrations with work from my home life, enjoy my kids. Enjoy being a parent.

When they don't listen, I need to figure out how to make sure they listen. Yelling isn't the only way. When they want to do something, I need to think before I say no and consider why not. When they are goofing off, I need to let them goof off. When they push the boundries, I need to hold the line and then distract them with what they can do.

Basically, I need to remember the kind of parent I want to be, strive to be, have been and can be. When I forget, I need to remember. Since that eureka moment that my BIL unintentionally gave me, I have refocused my parenting.

And since that moment over a week ago, things have been so much better. I have been enjoying my kids, and I know they have been enjoying me. I've yelled much much less, and they are listening much more. I have loosed up, and we are all having more fun.

I hope you all are having a wonderful summer! Ours is getting better every day!