Thursday, January 30, 2014

It's a New Day

Thanks to all for your wonderful comments.

Wottadoll, no, of course you didn't hurt my feelings! Not at all. Your comment just startled me and made me think... in a good way. It's a good thing to be self critical sometimes, just a little bit.

Claire, I loved what you said about small children not holding grudges. What an excellent point.

I realized last weekend that it's hard for me to apologize to Calliope when I've hurt her. How awful!

I think it's easy for me to apologize to others when their pain is not my fault. As in, "sorry you aren't feeling well," or "sorry your husband is being such a jerk." But harder for me to apologize when someone else's pain is my fault.

Point taken. I need to work on getting comfortable with apologizing. Especially because I ask Calliope to apologize when she hurts someone. I can't ask something of her that I don't ask of myself.

And you know, maybe teaching myself to apologize will take the pressure off. Because I admit I've been a bit down these last few days, thinking about all the ways that I don't measure up to the standards I'd like to achieve. But if I am willing to apologize, it's okay if I am less than perfect.

I love what SurlyMama said, "I'm learning that apart from bringing her into this world and be charged with teaching and guiding her, she is her own person with her own will and while I am her mother and feel like I can demand certain aspects of our relationship to be a certain way, I need to try to treat her with the respect I would give any other person in my life (you know the ones that can leave if I get too b*tchy)."

And yes, this is it, exactly.

And R, yes, I still think that setting limits is important. More than ever, actually. Because a friend of mine is constantly nagging her daughter, but not following through on consequences, so could be seen as "nice." But I see how her five year old rolls her eyes at her mother and treats her with shocking disrespect sometimes. And her mother is so lovely and caring and considerate. I can see that being "mean" every now and then -- carrying through on consequences the daughter would hate (in the moment) -- would probably improve their relationship dramatically.

Anyway, I said it's a new day (in the title of this post) because I realized I was starting to get bogged down in all the things I was doing wrong.

So here's something I did right.

Eleanor stayed for dinner last night. Her mother, Amy, arrived shortly after the girls started eating.

Eleanor is with Calliope forty hours a week, and Calliope adores her. But I think having company so late in the day is hard for Calliope. So she tends to hit and swat and screech and generally act in a way that doesn't make one long for a second child.

And then she reenacted one of her favorite tricks, guaranteed to enrage her favorite playmate. She put on Eleanor's jacket -- successfully zipping it up without. Looking very innocent. (She usually also climbs into Eleanor's stroller as well.)

Eleanor saw this, screeched "No Calliope! My coat!" and burst into tears. Amy and I tried to stifle our laughter as I patiently explained to both girls that the coat is Eleanor's, and Calliope would be taking it off now.

Calliope took off the coat agreeably enough... then snatched Eleanor's mittens out of Eleanor's diaper bag and announced gleefully, "My mittens!"

Eleanor lost it again.

Poor Eleanor. She is Calliope's testing ground for sibling behavior.

Of course, Eleanor can dish it out too. She likes to climb into Calliope's booster seat and announce, loudly, over and over again, "MY booster seat." Even when Calliope is in another room. Because she knows it will piss Calliope off.

After the mittens were successfully removed, Calliope went to Eleanor, now in the stroller, and gave her a little shove.

Time out.

But my rule with time outs is that she doesn't have to do them alone if she doesn't want to. Because I read something about how they can be so damaging. I have no idea if this is true, but giving her the choice of doing them alone or with Mommy feels safe. Usually, after time outs alone, I ask, "do you need a hug?" because she is sniffling and clearly in need of comforting.

So I put her into time out on the couch, alone. I was standing a few feet away, talking to Amy as she got ready to leave, when Calliope burst out, "I need a hug!"

Fine. So I sat on the couch with her and held her firmly in my lap and wouldn't let her slither down. And refused to talk to her. And set a timer for two minutes.

After the two minutes were up and Amy and Eleanor left, we had almost an hour until bedtime. And so, rather than make dinner for myself or clean up the kitchen, I asked, "do you want to go play with toys in your bedroom?"

I think it took her a little while to understand that I wasn't trying to get rid of her, but would come along.

So we went into her room and took out the Legos. After a couple of minutes of me building something, she took the pieces out of my hands and set to work. So I sat back and silently watched, biting my lip to avoid commenting and interrupting her concentration. No praising of her tower unless she asked for feedback.

This is Mommy staying the h*ll out of it.

She worked for nearly a half an hour, with minimal interaction with me. I took a few pictures but otherwise didn't play with my phone, or comment, or interact. Just sat there.

And she was so happy. To play with me safely in her sight.

And bedtime afterwards was a breeze.

A good lesson to me. Something I did well. Hallelujah.

Playing with Legos as Mommy watches quietly from the sidelines


  1. Because my mother never admitted to being wrong, for a large part of my life I felt like I had to be perfect, too. And one sure way to doom yourself to failure is to hold perfection as your goal. It was freeing for me to drop that expectation in all areas of my life - I don't need a perfect body, house, husband (or one at all), career trajectory, or children. It really takes a lot of pressure off!

    Now about the apologizing I just have to say it can backfire. I remember once when Fiona was about 2 I got really mad at her because she was having a fit over absolutely nothing and wouldn't get in her carseat. So I grabbed her, shoved her in her seat, buckled her up (wailing at that point) and drove off. Later I apologized and said I shouldn't have done that. OMG-, like for the next year, I heard, "Hey mom, you remember that time you put me in the carseat, you really shouldn't have done that, you were wrong about that!" Ha!

  2. I highly recommend reading Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids. or her website is free too and she has a newsletter. The hardest thing for me to remember is that raising my son is not about me, it's about him. He's the one who is affected when I yell, or give a time out. I find some of it hard to do still but it is amazing that when he is in full blown temper mode if I just get down to his level and let him know I hear and understand that he's upset, I'm here and if he needs a hug I have one ready for him, but if he's not ready for it I am still here. And it works, he calms down and needs that hug and suddenly all is well. Any way, awesome book and website, and the daily emails are daily reminders of how I want to be as a parent, and that even when I have bad moments it's fixable.

  3. I've heard good things about Positive Parenting, but haven't read it yet. It seems like maybe you did something right out of that book! I love what you did with the time out and the Legos - awesome stuff, keep it up!

  4. I heard someone ranting at their child in Target today and cringed, because it sounded like something I might do - I hope I'm not quite that bad, but it was still hitting close to home. Thanks for sharing - both the comments and your post today have been helpful!

  5. I'm always amazed that a little bit of playing on the floor can recharge both parent and child....I try to remember that when I have had a crappy day and I'm tempted to take it out on Isaac.