Thursday, May 30, 2013

A new lesson

I learned something today from a fellow parent, and I'm having some mixed emotions about it. So instead of moaning about our recent sleep problems, which are still going on, or reading the parenting book I just downloaded, I'm going to write about it.

We were at our weekly park playdate. The weather was really nice - sunny, but with a very cool breeze that I'm so thankful for, this late in pregnancy! I put a hat on Katie and it was still just barely cool enough for a long sleeved cotton shirt, so I didn't have to slather her with sunscreen. Bonus! There were about seven other kids at the playdate, which was a pretty nice turnout.

Throughout the playdate, Katie kept coming up to me with demands. Such as, "Up, mama! Walk!" or "Up, mama! Swings!" Lately I've been putting my foot down about the tone and the words she uses for these demands. Usually I say, "Oh, you want milk. Is there a nicer way you can ask?" or something to that effect. Sometimes she absently adds "Pweese," which doesn't exactly make me feel better about her dictatorial tone. So I've been trying to help her brainstorm different ways to ask for what she wants. For example, "I'm feeling thirsty, Mama! May I have some milk, please?" When she asks in this way, I want to jump for joy. And she'll do it sometimes without prompting, if she's in the right mood. She doesn't use all of those words in the correct order, but that makes it even cuter.

Anyway, Katie kept wanting to swing today, and I complied several times. At one point, Katie grabbed her water and her snack and demanded that I push her on the swings. So many things going on at once! I told her that I'd be happy to push her if she would ask in a different way. I got a reluctant "Pweese" but I could tell this wasn't the time to press for more. Then I told her to put her water and snack down so we could swing. She refused. "No water down! No snack down!" I calmly said, "Ok, well, if you want to eat and drink, that's ok, but we don't swing at the same time. When you're done with water and snack, then we can swing." She was starting to work herself up into a nice tantrum, but I wasn't going to give in. (This is part of my self-imposed assertiveness training, which I'm hoping will spill over and positively influence our bedtime woes.)

Luckily, she got distracted by another kid at this point, so I breathed a sigh of relief. But soon she was back, and she deliberately picked up her water before saying, "Up, mama! Swing!" I looked at her and repeated myself, "Water needs to stay here while we swing." "No water here! No!" I glanced at one of the other moms and murmured, "She sure is testing me a lot lately!" The other mom totally backed me up, saying, "Hey, Katie, it's true we don't drink water while we're on the swings." Another mom chimed in, "Yup, that's right!" Then the first mom said, "Do you want to know why?" She had Katie's full attention, and mine too - because at this point I couldn't even remember why I didn't want Katie to bring her water on the swings. I was too locked into winning my battle for dominance! The other mom said, "It's because if we're drinking water while we swing, we could bonk our water bottle on the swing and that might hurt. We wouldn't want you to get a boo-boo!" And to my complete and utter shock, Katie mulled this over for a few seconds, then put her water bottle down on the table!!!!! I took her hand and as we walked to the swings, I grinned at the other mom and said, "Thanks! That was a really good explanation!"

My mixed emotions are these: Gratitude and awe at the other mom's clear thinking, and guilt and shame that I didn't think of saying that myself. How many other times have there been where a simple little explanation would have avoided a tantrum? Oh, and throw in a pinch of frustration and jealousy because sometimes it seems Katie will listen to other adults (teachers and whatnot) but not me!

So anyway, I clearly have a lot more to learn about communicating with Katie. The hardest part is coming up with explanations that are clear and above all, brief! It reminds me of that time I was supervising the play-doh table at Katie's school. One of the moms had brought her four-year-old along for the day, and she was playing at my station. The mom told her, "Ok honey, after snack time, Mommy's going to go have discussion time." The four-year-old asked, "What's discussion time?" And the mom launched into this long-winded explanation of how sometimes the mommies and the teacher sit together in the art room and talk about different topics, and how it's grown-up time, and how it wouldn't be interesting for kids. The four-year-old was remarkably patient through this sermon, but I could tell not much of it sank in. About half an hour later, Teacher Donna called out, "Discussion Time!" and a different older sibling asked, "What's discussion?" Teacher Donna said, "It means we go into a room and talk. Thank you for asking!" (Now that's how it's done!)

If I had today to do over, I think I would tell Katie that she couldn't bring her water on the swings because she needs both hands to hold on. Then I could make a silly game of counting how many hands she would need in order to hold her water too, or something like that. I am able to do that kind of thing, sometimes - but not all the time, and certainly not today. It's a good reminder not to get too entrenched in "because I said so." Boy, do I struggle with that! I remember as a child, my mom constantly told me stuff like, "Because I'm the parent" and "Because 'Y' is a crooked letter and can't be straight." (wtf?) I guess it's true that our kids bring out things in us that we need to deal with from our past!

OK, back to the parenting book! 'Til next time!

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