Aspen Princess: Littler Monster, Big Love
March 7, 2018
The other day my mom says to me, "My friend and I were talking about how our daughters are raising little monsters. You give them too many choices."
I'm sure that grandmothers criticizing their daughter's parenting skills are as old as time itself. With each generation is a departure from the last in terms of whatever various philosophies are prevalent, but still.
"Oh, that's nice," I reply, trying to maintain an even tone. "So you think I'm raising a monster."
"You're always asking for his permission," Mom says without skipping a beat. "It's always, 'Do you want lunch?' and 'Do you want to go to bed?' You're giving him all the power."
It's true she said this on the same day she also said, "Cut flowers don't respond to light," so I try not take it too personally.
I can remember before Ryan and I had a child of our own, one of our favorite things was judging other people's parenting skills. We'd be in a restaurant and communicating with our eyes as the couple next to us struggled to gain control of an unruly toddler. On the way home, we'd talk about how we'd never let our kid get away with that kind of behavior, not ever.
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Hell, as recently as last Christmas we were oozing with judgment over a 2-year-old's unwillingness to share.
Now that more than half Levi's sentences start with "No!" or "Mine!" I've changed my tune.
It's quickly evident that this walking baby has no idea what he wants as his demands flip-flop by the second, kind of like having Trump invade my living room.
Let me begin by saying I haven't read a single parenting book. I am of the mind that instincts and values are the best guides for how to raise my child. In the case of an emergency, I can always ask Google.
That's exactly what I did as soon as my parents left last weekend: "How to discipline a 2-year-old" I typed.
I might as well have written "Is there a god?" or "What happens when you die?" because the results were all over the place.
"Put the child in a quiet place until they settle down," one article suggested. "One minute per year of age, so two minutes for a 2-year-old, three minutes for a 3-year-old, and so on."
"Two-year-olds don't get the concept of time out," another article suggested. "Try ignoring their behavior, because most of the time, bad behavior is an attempt to get attention."
"Show your child how their actions make you feel by exaggerating your emotions." That one is my favorite because I can imagine throwing myself on the floor and having a tantrum of my own.
"Beat your child over the head with something soft, like a raw chicken or an old sock."
Yes, I made that one up, but that's how futile this was.
Levi's challenge of the moment is he likes to hurl his plate at the dinner table so that all his food flies up into the air, sending the plate on a Frisbee-like trajectory, often at someone's head. The other night when he had friends over for dinner, half of his refried beans landed smack in the face of a darling 9-year-old who thought he had wanted to sit next to the baby.
My parents were not impressed.
It's not like we haven't tried to address this. We have tried everything. We've ignored him, we've scolded him, we've yanked him from the table and we've gently tried to explain why it's not nice to clock your grandfather between the eyes with a clump of mashed sweet potato.
Even worse, though, is when people offer unsolicited advice of how to manage a child I spend almost every minute of every day with, as if I hadn't already thought of that. As if I hadn't had hours and hours and hours to contemplate what to do when my child throws himself face down in the middle of the sidewalk in front of Confluence Coffee in downtown Basalt and screams his bloody head off. As if it hasn't occurred to me that just maybe, hurtling hard objects at my head is something I might want to try to manage.
As if it hasn't occurred to me that I should do something to prevent him from slapping me in the face at close range when I'm holding him in my arms or bites my shoulder during a sweet embrace.
In other words, I am now living full time on the other side of the fence and am very, very sorry for anyone who I judged unfairly in the past, so help me God. But please, give me the strength, not only to deal with my little toddle monster but also to manage those who think they know better than me how to manage my child.
My mother is of the school of thought that you should be firm with your children, and scare the good sense into them if that is going to be the only way to change their behavior.
Sue me, but I don't think that's my style. I'm more inclined to tickle my baby than yell at him, if only to evoke giggles instead of shrieks. Even if it might not set the right tone, it works every time and then we're both happy. And for all the so-called "bad" behavior (which I would chalk up to his being exactly where he should be in terms of his development) I forget all about it as soon as he smiles, giggles or wraps his little arms around me and offers me a kiss.
Maybe it's biochemical not to want to kill your own children, or maybe it's hormonal or some form of denial or self-defense. I don't care what it is. I love that little monster more than life itself.
The Princess is excited to bust out some of her spring wardrobe. Email your love to email@example.com
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