I write about parenting a lot. And although I frequently write about my mistakes as a mother/ wife/ human being, these moments get easily outshadowed by the times that I suggest that other people may also be making mistakes.
So here I am, sharing more of my human-ness with you.
Remember that daughter that I said never hits, takes toys, or is physically agressive in any way? Yeah. We’re now checking option D, all of the above.
In case you’re wondering, the principles that I believe in don’t change simply because my child is now misbehaving.
Here’s the backstory: for reasons that are not important and that I won’t go into here, I’ve had a really rough month. I haven’t been a very good mother. And no, I’m not being hard on myself and no, I don’t need to lighten about. In this regard, at least. This is just truth, sometimes we are imperfect.
In the immortal words of Vonnegut, “so it goes.”
I haven’t hit, yelled at or even raised my voice with Zoe. Don’t need to. It doesn’t take that much to damange a kid. I’ve simply been irritated and distracted, consistently, for about a month. And not even necessarily irritated at her. For some kids, that’s enough to make a difference and just my luck, I have a kid so sensitive to the moods of others that my slight irritation reads as a 7 on her Richter scale.
I mean, think about it. Imagine having to spend every hour of every day with a person that just slightly doesn’t want to be with you.
It’s not like I was callous or unaware of the effect it was having on Zoe. No, I tried pretty much every tool in the proverbial box, even planned an impromptu trip to my parents’ place in California, for the sun and the help with Zoe. It helped some, but gosh, sometimes life is just difficult and being a parent is just difficult. Toddlers are cute little vampires in pigtails, sucking the life out of you in order to create their own. For Zoe I am giving up my dream being a physics professor, uninterrupted conversations with other adults, and using the restroom with any modicum of privacy. It’s hard, man. Sometimes no matter how hard you try, you fall short.
I’m not a bad person for screwing up, nor am I ever suggesting that anyone else is. The important thing is that we learn from it.
And so, with life being difficult and parenting being difficult, Zoe has amped up her temper tantrums several orders of magnitude, and started doing that sad, pathetic, hitting-you-because-I’m-so-stressed-out-and-helpless schtick. Just breaks your heart. It’s not her fault. She’s one year old. It’s my job to teach her how to handle herself, how to express what she needs.
And you can add to her list of crimes taking toys from babies. This is now entirely my fault, and not just the past month either. This I have really dropped the ball on. Because: Zoe has been sweet and cooperative for months and months. And other kids take toys from the sweet and cooperative kids. Zoe would look at me with trust and confidence that I wouldn’t allow her to be steamrolled by other people. Bless her, she didn’t know any better. So I’d ask the kid for the toy back, and whatever brazen three year old in question would yell, “No!” Because that is what three year olds do, and I’d let it go.
Zoe has since learned that the playroom is a toddler-eat-toddler world and you can’t rely on mom or on being sweet to make it out there. I could have prevented all of this by simply asking the parent or nanny for Zoe’s toys back. Stupid. I’ve just been too nervous about the social dynamics, about unintentionally freaking out another parent.
There is hope yet!
You know, learning and stuff.
I can just start do those things now. Would I rather undergo a moment of discomfort or actually teach my daughter how to be aggressive? Obviously, easier said than done since I’ve been avoiding this for eighteen months. But all of this vast room for improvement allows me to start making the right decisions from today onwards.
After making some significant strides in getting the help I needed for myself yesterday, I spent all of today looking Zoe in the eye, holding her toy pots and pans for her and reading her books (…to her, not just for my own pleasure). For a day, I didn’t worry about getting dinner ready or doing the laundry or running errands. Not something I can do everyday what with a household to run, but hey, she’s easily worth at least one of those days and she has been telling me in a million different ways how badly she needs it.
I got it, baby. I hear you loud.
In this one day, she has almost entirely stopped hitting.
I can hear it now: Yes, but every child is different and oh but that would never work with my kid
And what have you got to lose by trying? One day where your kid gets to feel extra special for no reason? Although I do plan on keeping up this level of attention until Zoe’s needs have been filled. And even then, doing my best to give her my best. But at least one day. What’s the harm?
Because I am not making this up. She knows hitting is wrong. She doesn’t want to do it. It’s exactly the same sentiment as when I was thirteen and yelling at my parents, “I hate you!” The translation is: “Please love me! I need help desperately and have no idea how to ask for it!” I remember the feeling, baby girl. Still sometimes act in stupid ways because I don’t know how to ask for love. And yeah, I still stop and correct her everytime she does hit, and all that, but she really just wants to know if I still love her. If I show her the answer to that question consistently enough and without being prompted by her misbehavior, she loses the need to ask.