Friday, August 19, 2011

Battle of Wills

I don't have a lot of intrest in being friends with T right now. When he doesn't need constant monitoring I do want to be pals, when he grows up and the day to day parenting is done with I dearly hope we will be close friends, and the best parts of my day are when we have enormous amounts of fun together. But I am in charge of teaching him to make his way through this world as a kind and responsible member of society. Friendship is a sacred thing, and it's very much a two way street. It makes me nervous when parents talk about the friendships they have with their kids. How can a two year old participate in that reciprocal relationship? And frankly, I feel like the parent-child relationship, while different from friendship, is every bit as rich and fulfilling. I can't be his friend right now, I need to be his mom. All that said, I really don't want to be his adversary either. I absolutely do not want to engage in a battle of wills with him. It's something I've observed parents do since I babysat back in high school. And it confounded me then. Isn't the parent in charge? How is the kid ever going to respect them if they let themselves get so caught up in a situation that they obviously care about who is "winning"? Kids are going to push back, shouldn't firm boundaries be set, and if the kid crosses the line previously discussed repercussions be handed out?

When I was a babysitter I cared about the kids, but my emotional investment wasn't huge. I calmly made the rules and if the kids didn't follow them I calmly dealt with it by following through with what I said would happen if they didn't listen. And I shamelessly told the parents everything. Easy right? What could be the problem with your own kid?

Again, what an idiot I was. No one can get under your skin like your kid. Particularly when you are the one spending the most time with them. Particularly when you are trying to teach them right from wrong, how to be safe and how to treat others. We are in the middle of transitioning T to his big boy bed. He's actually doing much better at night than he is during nap time. It is taking him longer to wind down and fall asleep, but a big boy bed is a pretty exciting thing so it totally makes sense. 

Z has been the last one in with him at bedtime. He sings songs, gives T sips of water, and down T goes. His first night in the bed was Sunday, it took him over an hour to fall asleep, and last night he was asleep in 5 minutes. Um, the intense jealousy I feel when Z sets up parameters that encourage T to succeed while I am stupid enough to lay down a really rigid set of rules that no two year old could resist disobeying shall be explored in a post sometime in the near future. I've been doing most naps. And yup, my poor judgement insured that T and I would be tangled in an epic and hugely frustrating battle of the wills.

We have a video monitor. I told him I was watching him and if he got off the bed he would have to go back to his crib. He made it clear that he didn't want to go back into the crib, but it has been impossible for him to resist testing me to see if I'm looking. He hangs off the bed, feet dangling near the stool he uses to climb in, eventually lowering himself on to the ground. Then he hops back into bed in the hopes that I've missed it, gives it a few seconds, and the cycle begins again. I set up the rules, so I'm left with no choice but to go in and tell him to cut it out, the next time I SWEAR he is going in the crib. I went in three times yesterday and he finally did fall asleep. Even though I realized I was causing the problem today I was stupid enough to again warn him I'd be watching. After the third time I did what neither of us really wanted and put him in the crib. 

Needless to say it wasn't a popular choice. He sobbed hysterically, he begged me for his big boy bed. But I'd backed myself into a corner. Yes, he needs to figure out how to sleep in his bed. No, it really isn't the end of the world if he gets out of it as he is settling down. But for some reason I decided he needed to do this nap thing perfectly. I put an enormous amount of pressure on him and basically set him up to fail. It wouldn't help matters at all if I suddenly didn't follow through with what I told him. He had to go in to his crib today. And it sounds like he has fallen asleep. But tomorrow I'm not saying a damn word about watching him. Even then it might take a while for the damage to undo itself when it comes to him horsing around at nap time. And next time I need to remember that my two year old isn't going to be perfect. And if I set up expectations that he should be it's just going to lead to frustration for both of us.

I want to do right by him so badly. And again and again I fuck up. The only option is to try and be aware of it, pick myself up, dust off and do better tomorrow. I still believe setting firm paramaters is important in a lot of parenting situations, but I need to do a much better job of differentiating between situations like keeping him away from a hot stove, or grabbing a sharp knife compared to the big transitions like big boy beds or potty training, where extra stress is only going to make the situation worse. God, I hate the days I feel like a shit mom.

In other news, my cervix is still tightly shut.

The bummer is we had an awesome morning playing with play doh before the nap time debacle. He thought it was important to use a hammer and chisel to beat the play doh into submission.  

I made some play doh tools, which he seemed to enjoy using as much as his toy ones. 

He asked to have his "ear muffins" on. I love how safety conscious he is.

Sleepy guy chewing on grilled cheese. 

Less than a minute later he is out. Yup, dude was that tired and I managed to screw up nap time anyway...


  1. Stop beating yourself up. You showed T you meant what you said. How many times did we see parents in the store who basically talked at their kids and the kids were figuratively giving them the finger the whole while? You laid down consequences and then followed through. Good parenting!

  2. Oh man, J, the appalling parenting I witnessed at the store (and I fully blame the parents, if I was a kid and I could get away with being a brat I totally would) heavily played into my ambivalence about becoming a mom in the first place.

    And I agree it's important to follow through if consequences have been discussed. But even as a pretty strict mother, I'm starting to see I need to not make every situation so loaded. He simply doesn't have the impulse control yet. By emphasizing that he needed to stay in the bed I pretty much ensured he'd leave it. I think it would have been worse if I hadn't followed through, but the whole situation was avoidable. And the proof in that is we didn't say one word about watching him at bedtime tonight. He flopped around for about 20 minutes before falling asleep, but he didn't get out once.